The Agronomists, Ep 29: Joanna Follings and Kelly Turkington on fusarium head blight management


The winter wheat in Ontario is ready to be staged for fusarium head blight (FHB), and with such an impactful disease, we figured it was important to bring some guests on to talk about it!

Taking us on this journey with host Lyndsey Smith is Joanna Follings, cereal specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and Kelly Turkington, plant pathologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Lacombe, Alta.


  • It’s that time of  year where growers are getting into the field in Ontario for FHB spraying on winter wheat crops
  • Heading started in Ontario about two weeks ago
  • Ask yourself what your pants look like when you are walking through the field moisture-wise. Do they have moisture on them at 10 am still? 11 am? This is a way to gauge the humidity.
  • Starting to hear reports of leaf spot complex in wheat and barley right now in Alberta. Right now leaf rust and stripe rust reports are low
  • Strong winds and severe weather events are bringing up concerns for bacterial leaf streak
  • Physiological fleck in wheat is rearing its head in Ontario again
  • What causes the physiological fleck to happen? We actually don’t know. Researchers are working on it.

CLIP 1: Wheat School: Tips for fungicide decisions in a dry year

  • 2016 was a favourable year for the development of FHB across the prairies, followed by a couple of dry years, so it didn’t get as severe as we thought.
  • Southern Alberta under irrigation especially is still under quite the risk.
  • If you have infection right around anthesis timing — which is a critical time — you’re going to see severe development
  • From the time it comes out of the boot, it can be quite severe.
  • The goal is minimizing DON development.
  • Ontario likely always has to spray at least once. Conditions are there every year.
  • DON levels in the wheat crop in Ontario seem to go up and down, but for the most part growers in Ontario have made huge strides in control
  • When that crop is ready to be harvested, get it out of the field ASAP.
  • This disease continues to develop. Even without visual issues, we can still have DON development
  • There will still be spore showers as the crop progresses into milk and late milk stage, likely

CLIP 2: We tried, but there were some technical issues. The clip host Lyndsey Smith wanted to show:  Wheat School: Don’t Miss the Fusarium Suppression Window!

  • Spoiler alert: a “day” with staging your crop isn’t necessarily a days worth of time
  • Day zero is when 75 per cent of the heads have emerged
  • If it’s a really hot dry year, day 1 or day 2 can happen within a couple of hours. This is why it is so critical to scout fields. (Can we really say it enough? SCOUT!)
  • Targeting the timing can be extremely difficult
  • The anthers will always begin in the middle of the wheat head
  • Powdery mildew can be a big issue in a dry year. Be sure to check for that too. We want to keep those leaves “green and clean.”
  • Our first line of defence against FHB is a variety with some sort of moderate resistance.
  • What about un-pollinated florets? Could open up the risk of ergot. Frost could have caused some floret losses, and you’ll see bleached heads, or bleached awns. So far in Ontario this doesn’t seem to be a concern.

CLIP 3: Wheat School: Think droplet size for fusarium fungicides

  • The key is coarse droplet sizes to paint that head
  • With finer droplets, they are finding it gets stuck on the awns. They can get carried away as well
  • When you have your booms super high, those droplets can get off track easier
  • Can you do split apps for the right T3 timing when it comes to uneven emergence? Some of Turkington’s work is currently looking at single and dual applications.
  • Those dual applications starting at flag leaf can be a benefit, but looking at post-anthesis, watch pre-harvest interval and label restrictions

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