Fusarium Head Blight is a major challenge facing cereal growers and Dr. Adam Foster gave Island producers an update on efforts to better predict and control the fungal disease during a research day sponsored by the Atlantic Grains Council.
The Agriculture and Agri-Food scientist has been conducting multi-year research aimed at determining the accuracy of forecast models sometimes used to predict the arrival and severity of the disease. He said the research centers on spring wheat, winter wheat and barley.
The most important cause of FHB is the fungus Fusarium graminearum, which causes significant losses in grain yield and grain quality, while also resulting in the production of mycotoxins that affect livestock feed, the baking and milling quality of wheat and the malting and brewing qualities of malt barley.
"We are also trying to determine the effectiveness of foliar fungicides applied as recommended in controlling Fusarium Head Blight," he told the session at Harrington Farm.
Dr. Foster noted residues of corn, wheat and other small grain crops serve as sources of inoculum for the spores. The infection occurs primarily at anthesis. He explained the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers were using weather data to help determine the best time to apply fungicide.
In 2018 and 2019, the research included small plots at Harrington to study the effectiveness of spraying on yield and disease for spring wheat. He noted that in 2018, there was an eight per cent yield increase using the Acapela fungicide and that improved to 24 per cent last year.
"Fusarium Head Blight was low both years especially in 2019," he said. "Acapela is not labelled for Fusarium Head Blight but it has been tested for control."
When it came to winter wheat, Dr. Foster said there was no significant impact on yield or controlling Fusarium Head Blight no matter which combination of fungicides was used. He explained "winter survival was the main issue in the trial."
Turning to barley, he said the highest yields were achieved with the Group 11 fungicide Headline, adding all of the fungicides used in the trial statistically reduced Net Blotch.
"We had very low DON both years and there was no significant difference between the treatments," he told the growers.
He said additional trials are planned to assess the impact of limited irrigation.
Dr. Foster said in addition to trials at Harrington, the Atlantic Grains Council sponsored on-farm agronomy trials throughout the region. He explained the highest incident of Fusarium Head Blight occurred in southern Nova Scotia.
"When it comes to PEI, the 2019 wheat survey showed the western part of the province had the highest presence of Fusarium Head Blight," he explained.
Dr. Foster said the research will continue in 2020 to test existing Fusarium Head Blight models to see if they can be improved to help create a more accurate forecasting tool.