Wheat plants are beginning to head out and flower in parts of southern Illinois. During this critical time of wheat development, wheat becomes susceptible to infection by Fusarium graminearum, the causal agent of Fusarium head blight, said a University of Illinois plant pathologist.
Fusarium head blight (FHB, also known as scab) is a disease that can cause reduced grain yield, test weight and quality, said Carl Bradley. In addition, the fungus can produce toxins that will contaminate grain such as deoxynivalenol (DON, also known as vomitoxin).
“Harvested grain with high levels of DON may be discounted or outright rejected at the elevator,” Bradley said.
To achieve the best management of FHB, Bradley explained that different management practices must be implemented, such as planting wheat into fields that were previously cropped to soybean (rather than corn), planting wheat varieties with the highest levels of resistance to FHB and applying foliar fungicides at the proper timing. “Of these different management practices, the application of foliar fungicides is the only one that can be done during the growing season,” he added.
Multiple fungicides are registered for use on wheat, but only a few have efficacy in managing FHB. Fungicides available for FHB management all belong to the triazole class of fungicides and are Caramba (BASF Corp.), Prosaro (Bayer CropScience), Proline (Bayer CropScience) and products that contain tebuconazole as their solo active ingredient.
Bradley said of these products, the best efficacy has been obtained with Prosaro and Caramba in multi-state university field research trials. “Proper fungicide application timing is critical in achieving the best efficacy. The best application timing is considered to be when plants are beginning to flower (early anthesis – Feekes growth stage 10.5.1), but some efficacy may still be achieved slightly before or after Feekes 10.5.1,” he said.
In regards to fungicide application timing, Bradley noted that it is important to always follow the label recommendations and consider the pre-harvest interval (PHI) requirements (30 days for Caramba, Prosaro, Proline, and tebuconazole products). Fungicide products that contain strobilurin active ingredients should not be applied for control of FHB, and most do not list FHB control or suppression on their label.
“In multiple university research trials, strobilurin fungicides have been shown to increase DON levels in grain compared to non-treated checks. Therefore, it is extremely important that only effective triazole fungicides be applied for management of FHB,” he said.
An FHB Prediction Tool is available online at www.wheatscab.psu.edu. This risk is based on weather conducive for FHB and should be assessed for each field as heads begin to develop in anticipation of flowering, Bradley said.