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Below-normal year for fusarium levels in wheat

Below-normal year for fusarium levels in wheat
Aug 17, 2017
By Kaitlynn Anderson

The cereal crop shows low levels of the disease at harvest so far

By Kaitlynn Anderson


Ontario wheat producers have a new reason to celebrate this year.

Despite the heavy rainfall in some parts of the province, fusarium levels have been below normal this year.

“In terms of distribution, I’d say there were low levels across the board,” Joanna Follings, OMAFRA’s cereals specialist with the Agriculture Development Branch in Stratford, said in an interview with

Over the years, farmers have been implementing best management practices to significantly reduce the risk of fusarium infection.

“Producers are using crop rotation and making sure that they’re not planting winter wheat following a corn crop where the inoculum can be on the corn stubble,” said Follings. “They’re using (wheat) varieties with resistance or moderate resistance.”

In addition, farmers have been utilizing the DONcast model to make more efficient spraying decisions, according to Albert Tenuta, OMAFRA’s field crop plant pathologist in Ridgetown.

The DONcast model provides wheat producers with a prediction of deoxynivalenol toxin (DON) concentrations. DON, a mycotoxin produced by fusarium, may cause animals to reduce or refuse consumption of feed, according to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

Mother Nature also played a role in this year’s harvest outcome.

“We had some cooler nighttime temperatures during that critical (flowering) period, which is less conducive for disease development,” said Follings.

To reduce the risk of infection, farmers can vary their planting dates from field to field so that the wheat is heading at different times, said Tenuta.

Producers can also choose to plant varieties that are more tolerant to the disease.

“The selection of more tolerant varieties has gained quite a bit of importance,” said Tenuta. “We still have many (varieties) that are susceptible but the breeders are doing a better job at getting (the tolerant varieties) into the hands of producers. We have nothing that we would say is totally resistant to fusarium.”

Resistance is very complex, as there are two stages of resistance in the plant, he said.

The first stage involves whether or not the infection occurs. The second part is, once the infection occurs, determining the speed at which the it grows.

Having two different stages of  infection makes creating the genetics for wheat more complicated, according to Tenuta.

In addition to planting more tolerant varieties, farmers have also been more active in their fields over the past year after the findings of stripe rust. 

“Stripe rust is an issue that a lot of growers are spending a lot of time on and that’s an important component,” said Tenuta. “But it’s important for all producers to remember that, when it comes to wheat, fusarium still is the biggest risk we have.”

When planning for the fall, producers should make sure that they are planting varieties that are tolerant and that they are using an adequate crop rotation, Follings recommended.

While producers may be focused on preventing other diseases, Tenuta reminds farmers of the impact fusarium can have on the Ontario wheat crop.

“Fusarium is the one (disease) that can cause the biggest hurt amongst producers every year,” he said.


Photo credits: barmalini 2016/iStock / Getty Images Plus

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