Don’t let down your guard when it comes to fusarium

Provincial crop specialist says seed testing and using seed treatment are critical

Vigilance is the key to keeping fusarium at low levels in Alberta, says a provincial crop specialist.
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Fusarium head blight outbreaks can cause significant losses in grain yield and grain quality, while also resulting in the production of mycotoxin-Deoxynyvalenol that affects livestock feed, the baking and milling quality of wheat and the malting and brewing qualities of malt barley.

That’s why producers need to be vigilant, even if its rate of infection in Alberta is low, said Bill Chapman, a provincial crop business development specialist.

“It’s important that we continue to be vigilant to try and keep fusarium off the farm and continue to conduct seed testing as that’s what kept Alberta in the situation it’s currently in,” he said. “Fusarium has spread slightly around the province and it’s still in low numbers, but that doesn’t mean that we stop doing things like the DNA test to make sure we don’t have it in the seed that’s being used.”

The DNA test produces a ‘yes or no’ result and if it is positive, then another test is done to determine the percentage of the disease in the seed, he noted.

Seed treating is one of the most effective tools to manage FHB, added Chapman.

“It’s really important to maintain seed treatments at recommended rates as well as using the new systemic seed treatments that, though are a little more expensive, can stop a potentially devastating outbreak on the farm.”

Chapman recommends speaking directly with your local seed plant manager or input supplier to find out what treatments they have available and to make sure it’s a product that will go into the seed and control the surface level of FHB on the seed.

Moderately resistant new wheat and barley varieties will be out in two or three years and some new varieties with moderate level of resistance also have lower levels of deoxynivalenol (DON) which is a growth inhibitor in monogastric animals such as chickens and hogs.

“The bottom line is we have to maintain vigilance against it, it’s still under the Pest Act that seed in Alberta must be free from fusarium head blight,” said Chapman. “It’s important to keep that in the back of your mind because we don’t want to see the economic losses we’ve seen in other provinces from it.

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