Scout winter wheat crop early for signs of disease

Scout winter wheat crop early for signs of disease

Warm winter means winter wheat crop is growing early and disease pressure could be similar to last year

It's still February, so you might think there's no need for you to scout hard red wheat fields for disease. But you'd be wrong.

"The warm January and the record warmth in mid-February put the winter wheat crop at serious risk of fungal and bacterial diseases," says Chris Hansen, Central Regional Commercial Manager for WestBred. "We are already hearing reports of stripe rust in Texas."

Hansen said his advice would be "scout early, scout often" as the season progresses. A long, warm fall and an unseasonably mild winter with adequate moisture over much of the state have the crop looking quite good at this point, he said. But those same conditions are ideal for the development of disease.

GREEN AND GROWING: The hard red winter wheat crop in much of southern Kansas has broken dormancy as a result of warm weather in February. Producers are being advised to begin scouting fields for signs of disease which could arrive earlier than normally expected.

"We are in somewhat the same position as last year except with much better moisture profile," he said. "We have a long way to go to harvest but with good conditions we have some good yield potential out there and producers will want to take quick action if threats show up."

This year, with definite lower prices and potentially higher yields, a fungicide application could be the difference between achieving high yielding, good quality wheat and average yielding, poor quality wheat, he advised.

However, Hansen urges farmers who spot issues in the wheat to get advice from a crop adviser or Extension agronomist right away.

"At this early growth stage of the crop, disease symptoms may look similar. It is important that you distinguish the difference between a fungal disease and that of a bacterial or viral disease," he said. "It will be a waste of money to apply a fungicide if what you have is a bacterial or viral disease of some kind. You may need to get a professional diagnosis of what the problem is so you can make sure you are using best management practices within your farming operation to handle your specific disease problem."

TAGS: Wheat
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