Fusarium Infection High This Year in Winter Wheat

CANADA - A wheat breeder with the University of Manitoba reports early indications are that the incidence of fusarium head blight has been particularly high this year, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 18 August 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

The 2010 growing season has been characterised by abnormally wet weather with rainfall in excess of 45 per cent above normal in some areas.

Fusarium head blight is a fungal disease that affects primarily cereal crops producing a toxin that reduces end use quality of the grain.

Dr Anita Brûlé-Babel, a wheat breeder with the University of Manitoba, says crop diseases are a big part of what happens when we have hot humid weather and fusarium head blight thrives under hot humid conditions.

Dr Anita Brûlé-Babel-University of Manitoba

We don't have all of the monitoring information in place at this point.

With regard to the winter wheat crop, we have seen a lot of fusarium head blight infection in the winter wheat crop in most of the southern prairies and that is just because we have had these very hot humid conditions at the time of flowering.

I suspect given that we've also had that same type of condition during the time of flowering of some of the spring wheat crops that we may also be seeing some high levels of fusarium in spring wheat.

High levels of fusarium infection obviously mean that we have high levels of mycotoxins in the seed grain which limits the use of that grain for either feed or food purposes.

From that perspective if in areas where we have some fairly high levels of infection, marketability of that grain for either feed or food is going to be somewhat limited.

Obviously, when you have mycotoxins, it affects the health of animals and humans and so we don't want high levels of that type of mycotoxins in our grain.

Dr Brûlé-Babel notes fusarium head blight is challenging but plant breeders in western Canada are working toward improving fusarium response.

She acknowledges it won't be perfect so in years with high epidemic potential there will still be levels of fusarium in the field that may cause problems but hopefully it will be lower than what we see in some years now.

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