Wheat Disease Scouting

Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist; bobmul@udel.edu

Be on the lookout for several wheat diseases now. Powdery mildew is appearing in very dense stands and in headrows and on susceptible cultivars. The small white-to-tan spots of fungal growth are getting easy to spot when present. Most of what I have seen has been in the lower canopy and does not require treatment. Keep scouting. The second disease worth looking for is stripe rust (Figure 1). I am seeing some reports of it in the South and there might be low levels in our area that go undetected until some yellowing of the leaves appears. Stripe rust is getting more aggressive so it is important to identify it early and apply a triazole fungicide, such as Tilt or Caramba; a strobilurin, such as Quadris or Headline; or a combination product like Quit or Stratego. If these products are applied from flag leaf fully expanded until head emergence very good to excellent control should be achieved. None of these products labeled for powdery mildew or rust control, except Caramba, will aid in scab control.

Stripe Rust of Wheat

Figure 1. Stripe rust pustules on the underside of the leaf

Scab or Fusarium head blight suppression is achieved with well-timed applications of Prosaro (Proline + Folicur) 6.5 fl oz/A , Caramba 14 fl oz/A, or Proline (alone) 5.7 fl oz/A. None of the other fungicides labeled for wheat will give the same level of suppression as the above three, according to work done by Arv Grybauskas at the University of Maryland. No fungicide provides the level of control that most growers would like to see, but they are the best that we have and can provide suppression of the disease, especially if conditions are favorable. Suppression of scab depends on very precise timing of the application. For the fungicides to work to the best of their ability they need to be applied when the anthers first appear (Figure 2). The fungus infects through the flower parts of the wheat so it is the newly flowering wheat heads that need to be protected. Once pollination takes place the fungus is only susceptible to the fungicides for a very short time.

Wheat is at risk when temperatures are warm and wet during flowering, the risk increases when the wheat crop is planted in no-till corn stubble and there is no rotation. The new risk management tool is located at the Fusarium head blight website http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu. It can be useful once heading begins and the risk of scab increases as flowering approaches. The new version that is running now has the ability to give a 24-72 hour forecast looking at the previous several days as well as the weather forecast for the next several days. Those buttons are at the top left side of the forecast page.


Figure 2. Correct timing for fungicide application for scab suppression

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