| ||Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a fungal disease of cereal crops that affects kernel development. Outbreaks can cause significant losses in grain yield and grain quality, while also resulting in the production of mycotoxin-Deoxynyvalenol that affect livestock feed, the baking and milling quality of wheat and the malting and brewing qualities of malt barley.
Bill Chapman, crop business development specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, says though its rate of infection in Alberta is low, maintaining vigilance is key to keep it from spreading and ultimately devastating crops.
“It’s important that we continue to be vigilant to try and keep Fusarium off the farm and continue to conduct seed testing as that’s what kept Alberta in the situation it’s currently in – Fusarium has spread slightly around the province and it’s still in low numbers but that doesn’t mean that we stop doing things like the DNA test to make sure we don’t have it in the seed that’s being used,” he says adding that he DNA test is yes or no result and if it is positive another test is done to determine the percentage of the disease in the seed.
According to Chapman, seed treating is one of the most effective tools to manage FHB. “It’s really important to maintain seed treatments at recommended rates as well as using the new systemic seed treatments that though are a little more expensive, can stop a potentially devastating outbreak on the farm,” he says.
Chapman recommends speaking directly with your local seed plant manager or input supplier to find out what treatments they have available making sure it’s a product that will go into the seed and control the surface level of FHB on the seed.
There’s a lot of optimism as some newer varieties have been showing new percentage gains and or up to moderately resistant new varieties that will be out in two or three years for crops like wheat and barley. Also, some of the new varieties that do have this moderate level of resistance also have lower levels deoxynivalenol (DON) which is the growth inhibitor in things like monogastric animals such as chickens and hogs.
“The bottom line is we have to maintain vigilance against it, it’s still under the Pest Act that seed in Alberta must be free from Fusarium head blight. It’s important to keep that in the back of your mind because we don’t want to see the economic loses we’ve seen in other provinces from it,” Chapman says.