Many local grain elevators, regional mills, and Extension specialists have played an integral role in educating wheat growers on tjhe devastating mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON). Wheat industry experts and growers have been on alert since 1993, when the fungus associated with the mycotoxin led to the first scab outbreak. They have stressed that a combination of technology and smart growing practices can reduce the potential for high DON levels and help protect wheat quality. Marcia McMullen, Extension plant pathologist at North Dakota State University, suggests:
- Plan good crop rotation systems that plant wheat after broadleaf crops such as soybeans, canola, and flax.
- Avoid following corn and minimize wheat-on-wheat rotations.
- Choose wheat varieties with improved scab resistance.
- Assess the region’s scab risk using tools such as www.wheatscab.psu.edu or check to see if your own state has a risk outlook tool.
- Apply fungicides proactively to control and avoid diseases.
Randy Myers, Bayer Crop Science fungicide product manager, says a growing number of U.S. wheat and barley producers are relying on annual fungicide use as a proactive measure for overall crop protection.
“Annual, proactive approaches to disease management are the most effective because scab on cereals cannot be cured,” explains Myers. “If warm, humid climate conditions and moist soil are present as grain heading approaches — and the Fusarium pathogen is present — disease will develop. You don’t want to wait until you can see signs of the disease to spray, because then it’s too late to get the most out of your fungicide applications.”