As a result of wet weather this spring and early summer, Fusarium head blight (FHB) has been popping up in wheat fields across Nebraska, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension plant pathologist Stephen Wegulo.
The southeastern, south central, and southwestern parts of the state have been affected the most by FHB, which is caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum. It is characterized by the premature whitening of wheatheads. Fusarium-damaged kernels come from bleached spikelets that are sterile.
Now, Wegulo is offering a few tips for wheat producers combating FHB in their fields. First, he notes that increasing the fan speed on combines during harvesting can help remove some of the heavily infected grain.
Next, he says that it is critical to keep scabby grain separate from the healthy crop. The incidence and severity of scab may vary from field to field within a particular field, and it may also depend on the variety planted. Local environment conditions can also play a role in the situation.
Wegulo also recommends testing for high mycotoxin levels, as the presence of scabby grain does not necessarily indicate that high levels are existent throughout an entire field.
If it turns out that the proportion of scabby grain is high, Wegulo says that producers should consider cleaning the grain with seed-cleaning equipment to remove or reduce scabby kernels. Afterward, scabby grain should be stored at or below 12% moisture content. This will reduce the potential for deterioration.
Scabby or mycotoxin-affected grain can be used as livestock feed. For more information regarding wheat conditions across Nebraska this season, visit the UNL Extension website at cropwatch.unl.edu.