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Better manage FHB with risk maps

By: Mitchell Japp, PAg, Provincial Specialist, Cereal Crops

Map of fusarium head blight risk
An example of a risk map for FHB
from 2015.
2014 was rough for fusarium head blight (FHB) in Saskatchewan. It affected yield and especially quality in all corners of the province.

Until 2014, FHB had been relatively regional and levels were generally low – although FHB was present in 2012, as well. With the trend toward more FHB, last year the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission contracted Weather Innovations to provide risk maps for Saskatchewan.

With spring planting mostly behind us and some fall cereals starting to head out, Sask Wheat will be launching the maps again in mid-June.

Although FHB was not as prevalent in 2015 as it was in 2014, there were areas of the province where fusarium damage did show up.

Provincial surveys of wheat and durum conducted in 2015 found FHB in 34 per cent of common wheat and 44 per cent of durum wheat crops. The severity was 2.2 and 5.2 per cent respectively, which was a higher severity than in 2014 and continues the upward trend observed in durum in past years. This survey measures fusarium damage by average severity (FHB severity (%) = [% of spikes affected x % of kernels infected] / 100) rather than grading, but does not take into account fusarium infection that can occur in the absence of fusarium damage. As FHB was present throughout the province last year, fusarium inoculum will be present in many fields in Saskatchewan.

Fusarium management is challenging because several strategies must be employed to be effective and, even when all are done correctly, the disease can still cause damage. Fusarium management should include:

  • Crop rotation (at least three different crops, with as much diversity as possible);
  • The use of the best genetic resistance available (see the 2016 SaskSeed Guide or Varieties of Grain Crops); and
  • The use of fungicides (with optimum timing).

FHB risk maps, in conjunction with a cost/benefit analysis tool, help producers determine whether or not a fungicide application is worthwhile.

The FHB risk maps are based on the heading date for a specific crop. Producers should determine when their crop’s heading date is, then follow the maps as they are generated.

Growers should use the risk maps in conjunction with other tools, including:

  • Field scouting to determine the proper crop stage (the risk maps will be useless without proper crop staging);
  • Information on weather and growth rates to see how fast the crop is advancing; and
  • A spray decision chart.

All of these tools (except scouting) are available on the risk map website.

Check the crop and get the spray timing right
Check the crop and get the spray timing right.

When a spray application is warranted, be sure to get the timing right to make the most of it. An infographic showing proper spray timing is available on the website, as well.

Fusarium is a pathogen that requires a lot of planning for. It affects planting decisions and seeding management and requires integrated pest management throughout the growing season. Knowledge is the key to reducing fusarium – knowledge about the quality of seed going in the ground, crop rotation benefits, the value of genetic resistance and how to make the most of a fungicide application. Make sure to check out all the resources available in association with Sask Wheat’s FHB risk maps.

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