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Validating FHB Risk Maps – How You Can Help

By Raul Avila, A.Ag Crop Production Intern and Treena Lake, University of Manitoba summer student

Bleaching of spikelets
Bleaching of spikelets associated with fusarium
head blight infection

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a fungal disease that causes yield and quality loss in cereal crops. FHB infection is largely driven by environmental conditions throughout the growing season. Weather-based risk assessment systems can indicate when conditions favour disease development and can be used by producers to guide FHB fungicide application decisions.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture is collaborating in the University of Manitoba-led project "Developing a Risk Model to Mitigate Fusarium Head Blight in Western Canadian Cereal Production." This five-year project is funded by the Western Grains Research Foundation and is supported by collaborators across the prairies. The major goal of this project is to develop a standardized, weather-based method for reliably predicting FHB and mycotoxin (DON) accumulation across Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. The model will be validated in commercial wheat, winter wheat, barley and durum crops with a range of FHB resistance ratings across the three prairie provinces. This is where we need your help.

In Saskatchewan, we will be collecting data from 12 winter wheat, 12 spring wheat, 12 Barley, and eight Durum fields across the province. The data from these fields will be used to validate the models to ensure that they provide accurate and FHB-reliable risk assessments. For spring wheat, winter wheat and barley, the fields will be divided into three categories based on the FHB resistance rating of the variety: Resistant/moderately resistant (four fields), Intermediate (four fields) and Moderately susceptible/susceptible (four fields). All eight durum fields will be susceptible to moderately susceptible.

Planning has started for 2020 and we have been successful in lining up a large number of fields, but we are still looking for more collaborators. To be specific, we are looking for fields that meet the criteria listed below:

  • Six winter wheat fields, preferably with fields seeded to varieties with intermediate or susceptible FHB ratings, though we will happily accept any variety;
  • Spring wheat fields seeded to susceptible or moderately susceptible varieties; and
  • Two-row barley fields seeded to resistant or moderately resistant varieties.

To ensure high-quality data, we are asking producers to leave a fungicide-free check-strip at least 30 m by 30 m (100 ft. by 100 ft.) in each field included in the study. Throughout the summer, fields will be visited three times to set up spore traps, assess FHB incidence and severity, and collect samples for further analysis. Since this project is focused on validating weather-based risk assessment models, it is important that fields are located as close as possible to a reliable station (e.g. a Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation or Environment Canada weather station).

All staff involved in this project will follow stringent biosecurity protocols to prevent the introduction of any crop pests into your field.

If you are interested in participating in the project or would like more information, please contact Treena Lake at treena.lake@umanitoba.ca or 306-380-7666.

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