Fusarium head blight (FHB), caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum, is a major concern for wheat growers across the Prairies. The fungus affects grain yield and produces mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol, or DON, that accumulate in grain. The presence of DON leads to a downgrade in quality when that grain enters the market.
Victoria Linden, director of research with Cereals Canada, discusses the Keep It Clean campaign to manage FHB in cereal crops in this episode of Wheat School. (Story continues below video):
“Market access is the key focus of our Keep It Clean campaign, we want to make sure that our Canadian grains, especially wheat are able to be marketed in all parts of the world,” says Linden. She lists some tips on how to manage FHB:
- Try to grow the most resistant varieties that are available to you
- Plant clean seed and consider a seed treatment in high risk areas
- Scout for the stage, rather than the symptoms—if we’re getting hot, humid weather just before flowering, those are the optimal conditions for FHB to infect wheat
- If you’re not sure how your grain crop is doing in terms of fusarium or DON levels, send a sample to the grain commission
- If you do have FHB in your fields, or have had it in the last year or two, try to rotate away from wheat or other host crops for one to two years to break the disease cycle
- Combine best management practices such as the ones previously mentioned and also consider running the combine wind speed higher, to blow out lighter kernels
If farmers don’t take FHB and DON seriously, “it can really put our access to export markets at risk,” says Linden. “All of these companies that are importing Canadian wheat are looking for mycotoxins in the grain and they do have maximum limits that they’re willing to accept.”
Fusarium head blight can also infect other crops, such as barley and corn.