Published on Thu, 04/12/2018 by BASF Canada

Fusarium still a risk for the Prairies, especially as a soil-borne disease

A sharp decline in Fusarium incidence across the Prairies in 2017 is welcome news for cereal growers. But caution remains for growers who are on a short rotation or seeding into crop residue.

To show history and impact of the disease, BASF developed a map of annual Fusarium frequency trends across the Prairies from 2003 onward. Click the link at the end to download the map (.MP4).

“Fusarium head blight didn’t take a strong hold last year because the dry environment was not conducive to disease. That doesn’t mean the inoculum wasn’t there though – all we needed was the right environment,” said Russell Trischuk, MSc, a plant physiologist and molecular biologist with BASF Canada. His research looks at the impact of inoculum in the soil on seedling development, and how to identify ways to help manage soil-borne diseases.

Although those dry conditions led to lower yields, the quality of the cereals crops in the Prairies was very high last year, with Cereals Canada reporting that nearly 85 percent of Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat received No. 1 grading. In 2016, only 19 percent of CWRS crops were graded No. 1. One factor that leads to a top grade is low damage from diseases like Fusarium.

To show history and impact of the disease, BASF developed a map of annual Fusarium frequency trends across the Prairies from 2003 onward. The 2017 results show a significant drop in Fusarium affected acres, which is in stark contrast to the year prior when most cereal-growing regions had at least some incidence reported.

“Growers got a much-needed break last year, and that will give us relatively clean seed this year. But, because our rotations are tight, and we use minimum till for sustainable soil management, that inoculum is not going away,” said Trischuk. “The reality is, once you have Fusarium in your field, it’s there. You really need to be managing it – both from a seed and soil-borne perspective, and in-crop if conditions are favourable to it.”

Glen Forster, MSc, BASF Technical Marketing Specialist for Fungicides, works with Trischuk. “It takes a long time to break down Fusarium in the soil which makes it difficult to control once it has been established on the farm,” he said. “Soil-borne and in-crop diseases are two separate threats: as a soil-borne disease, Fusarium impacts early germination, plant stand, root disease, water uptake, and crop establishment during those critical first two-to-three weeks of growth. The second thing to worry about is that inoculum source can develop into Fusarium head blight later if the environment is ideal. An early season infection will not necessarily mean you will have an in-crop disease, and vice versa. You have to be vigilant throughout the season.”

Forster recommends growers plan to take a preventative approach to managing Fusarium diseases based on several factors: the field’s history of disease, rotation practices, variety, and tillage practices.

It is strongly advised that growers use clean seed to reduce the potential for inoculum to spread during seeding, which can increase the likelihood of soil-borne disease. If the soil already has inoculum present, then a seed treatment like Insure Cereal can reduce the potential for disease. “Insure Cereal is very effective in helping get those seedlings out of the ground with less disease pressure. The AgCelence benefits also lead to more consistent emergence so that if you do need to spray an in-crop fungicide, then you are spraying every plant at the same growth stage,” Forster said.

For growers who have ever had Fusarium take hold, the answer is clear: plan for prevention, said Trischuk. “Fusarium head blight didn’t take last year because it was a dry year – that’s really the only reason. If you’ve ever had Fusarium before, you should be planning to manage it preventatively with a seed treatment from now on.”

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© 2018 BASF Canada Inc.

 

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BASF Fusarium disease map 2018 (video .MP4)  8.5 MB