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Detailed risk mapping could help Saskatchewan farmers

A project that helps to map the level of risk of fusarium head blight throughout the prairies is looking to gather more data to help create a detailed picture for Saskatchewan. The mapping tool, provided by the University of Manitoba in partnership with several organizations across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, uses weather data such as air temperature, relative humidity, and rainfall to calculate the risk of fusarium head blight and generate maps showing the risk.  

“The severity of fusarium head blight is really dependent on weather, and so in order to try and come up with a prediction of the severity of the disease, you need to monitor the weather conditions,” explained Paul Bullock. He is part of the research team that is gathering the data for the project.  

The weather data is collected from a number of sources, including Environment Canada, provincial weather reporting networks in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as some data from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency. However, the data from Saskatchewan isn’t as robust as they would like, mainly due to a lack of a provincial network such as what is in place in our neighbours to the east and west.  

“In Saskatchewan, there isn’t a similar provincial, publicly accessible weather network that covers the whole province, or the ag part of the province in the south at least,” Bullock said. “We’re enlisting help from farmers and others in Saskatchewan that have Meto weather stations.” 

Those with the Metos weather stations can contact Metos directly to advise if they would like the data collected to be provided to the FHB risk mapping project. To help fill the gaps of coverage in certain areas, Bullock said there are 25 free Metos weather stations available for people who are within five miles, or eight kilometres, of the identified gaps.  

The locations where a producer could be eligible for a free Mrtos weather station are: 

8 miles northeast of Oxbow 
5 miles southeast of Forget 
10 miles east of Francis 
13 miles west-southwest of Bengough (between Willow Bunch and Willow Bunch Lake) 
3 miles northeast of Edenwold 
19 miles west-northwest of Melville 
10 miles southwest of Bredenbury 
11 miles north-northwest of Canora (between Tadmore and Amsterdam) 
7 miles southwest of Sheho 
12 miles south-southwest of Humboldt 
5 miles west of Fosston 
14 miles west of Archerwill 
4 miles southwest of Wakaw 
9 miles north of Tisdale 
8 miles east-southeast of Prince Albert (near Stanleyville) 
10 miles west-southwest of Blaine Lake (near Krydor) 
4 miles northwest of Turtleford 
3 miles west of Cutknife 
22 miles northeast of Biggar (near Struan) 
7 miles south of Biggar 
14 miles northeast of Hanley 
3 miles northwest of Eston 
7 miles northeast of Chaplin 
5 miles south-southwest of Hodgeville 
15 miles northwest of Swift Current (near Success) 
Anyone who is in those areas and wants to inquire about the weather stations can contact Bullock by email at paul.bullock@umanitoba.ca. 

"What we’re doing here in Saskatchewan was not something that we had anticipated at the outset,” added Bullock. “We didn’t realize that the network would be that thin.” 

The mapping tool the weather stations will help create is based on work that started in 2018. Research plots were set up to monitor fusarium head blight across the prairies, and models were developed that were considered to be more accurate than what was already in place. The data helps to assess the risk of fusarium head blight up to the time of flowering of the crop. 

“At that point in time, you have no idea how bad the fusarium is going to be,” Bullock pointed out, adding when the fusarium is visible, it is often too late for spraying. The tool can provide some indication of the risk of fusarium, allowing producers to apply a fungicide at flowering and help to reduce or suppress the fusarium pressure that might be there.  

The tool goes down to a 10 km by 10 km grid, and each cell in the grid has a risk value assigned to it. If a field is at high risk, it can help provide the information for a producer to know when to apply a fungicide. The risk level can be used for more than just wheat, with barley and durum also benefitting from the data collected.  

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