While fusarium head blight is an annual threat to winter and spring wheat crops each year in Ontario, the U.S. and parts of Western Canada, wet and humid weather can cause the disease to flourish even more than average, consuming yield and knocking down grades. This year has proven no different, and, as the winter wheat harvest gets under way, farmers are getting a first glimpse at the impact the disease has had this year.
Fungicides are an effective protection against the disease, especially when used in combination with varieties with decent tolerance to fusarium, however the products only provide protection and prevention — once the disease is there, it can’t be cured or removed. If you’ve been watching the tell-tale bleaching of seeds and pink fuzz develop in the field, is there a way to decrease the level of fusarium damaged kernels and disease presence in the final grain sample? The answer is yes, and it involves careful harvest management.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, getting into a wheat field as soon as possible and cranking the fan speed on the combine are two things a farmer can do that will make a difference on the final grade of the crop. Blowing two, three or even ten per cent of the kernels out the back of the combine might seem like it’s hurting yield, but fusarium damaged kernels are small, shrunken and light — these are not adding to yield, they are only negatively impacting quality.
“Recent hot temps will help slow secondary infection in spring wheat and barley,” Peter Johnson, provincial specialist with OMAF, says, “but the damage is done for winter wheat. The best thing farmers can do now is get the crop off and in the bin as fast as possible.” Johnson says those that planned a pre-harvest glyphosate application may find it easier to combine fields with grain still a bit high in moisture, as it does help with green stems. Once in the bin, Johnson says it’s imperative that the grain be dried down to a safe storage moisture level as soon as possible to decrease the risk of spoilage or further fungal growth.
For more on strategies to minimize fusarium levels in the bin and the grain sample, visit the Field Crop News page here.