Watch for bacterial leaf streak in your wheat and barley this year

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Cereal growers across Alberta should keep bacterial leaf streak in their sights this year.

“It’s not a new pathogen, but it’s what I’d call an emerging pathogen,” said provincial researcher Michael Harding. “It’s becoming more and more prevalent and even causing some economic loss in cereals.”

Most growers don’t watch for it or manage it because it hasn’t caused significant problems so far.

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But that could be changing.

“It’s just been there in the background, but now we’re seeing 20 per cent yield loss because of bacterial leaf streak, and we better start paying attention to it,” he said.

The first step is to recognize the symptoms.

“They occur in long streaks or strips on the leaf. They kind of look like stripe rust without the orange spores. Lots of times it gets mistaken for stripe rust or tan spot.”

But because it’s a bacterial pathogen, a fungicide won’t protect the leaves from infection.

“If you’re spraying fungicides, you might get good control of tan spot or stripe rust, but you won’t get any efficacy against this bacterial leaf streak,” said Harding. “It may look like your fungicide didn’t work, but if it’s bacterial leaf streak, that’s to be expected.”

About the author

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Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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