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Timing Matters When Reducing Fusarium Head Blight in Winter Barley

Timing Matters When Reducing Fusarium Head Blight in Winter Barley

By Jessica Ryan

When Fusarium head blight (FHB) threatens winter barley, the best time to apply a fungicide is about six days after full barley head emergence, according to a recent study published in Plant Disease.

FHB, also known as scab, is a  that attacks small grains, discoloring the heads and contaminating the grain with the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON), a toxic compound also known as vomitoxin. For , the most common grain used to make malt for beer and spirits, even a small amount of DON can cause crops to be rejected by purchasers. The  in malted barley kernels may lead to gushing, or the rapid and uncontrolled foaming of beer, making the crop unusable for beer production.

In a four-year study, researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Minnesota assessed three different fungicides for FHB reduction. The researchers evaluated the amount of DON present in mature winter barley heads following a fungicide application at one of three growth stages—half heading, full heading, and six days after full barley  emergence.

"The latest timing of fungicide application reduced DON significantly more than the early timing for all three fungicides tested in the study,"said Christina Cowger, small grains pathologist at ARS's Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Applying fungicide before all heads were emerged did not significantly reduce DON in winter barley as compared to not spraying at all. If scab is threatening, growers should wait about six days after barley heads have all appeared before applying fungicide."

According to Cowger, eastern U.S. barley growers have two main tools for FHB management—plant moderately resistant varieties and apply a fungicide. By understanding the best timing for  to minimize FHB,  can manage high-FHB epidemic years and maximize profits from malting barley.

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