Fusarium head blight is a very destructive fungus that affects wheat, barley, oats and corn. Fusarium is also commonly referred to as scab or tombstone. Fusarium can reduce yields in wheat from floret sterility and poor seed filling. Traces of mold left on the seed will result in downgrading. The fusarium fungus also produces toxins in wheat and barley that can be harmful to humans and lifestock.

Fusarium was designated as a pest under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act in 1999 in an effort to slow down the spread. Alberta is currently one of the few areas in the world without a widespread infection of Fusarium in our cereal crops. Unfortunately, this disease is becoming more prevalent in the Southern part of our province, especially under irrigated areas. As Fusarium has been designated as a pest under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act it is our duty to ensure that we are doing our best to control the spread of it within the County of Newell.

Fusarium head blight overwinters in soil, grass and crop residues as well as the seed. Seedlings may become infected at emergence. Spores are produced first from infections on the stem at the base of the plant. The spores are distributed by wind or rain and infect flower parts, glumes or other portions of the head. Infections are most severe during flowering.

Symptoms of Fusarium often appear in the field at the end of July or early August. The disease can be recognized by premature bleaching of one or more spikelets on the head. Early symptoms may also include masses of white, pink or orange spores along the bases of the glumes, especially in humid conditions.

In order to fight Fusarium in our area the County of Newell Agricultural Service board recommends utilizing the best management practices for this disease. This generally includes using clean treated seed, scouting mid-season and applying a fungicide if required, turning off your irrigation while the crop is flowering if possible and maintaining a crop rotation with non-cereal crops.

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