Managing Fusarium Head Blight At Harvest

Winter wheat harvest 2014 will start shortly in Manitoba.  Field surveys being conducted by MAFRD staff are indicating higher than normal levels of fusarium head blight (FHB) in many winter wheat fields.

Unfortunately at this late stage of the growing season where harvest is right around the corner, there are no easy answers in managing FHB that is present. However, before harvest (and before a preharvest treatment is applied if one is planned), farmers and agronomists should head out to the fields for some final scouting to determine what, if any, harvest and storage strategies can be used to minimize the impact of fusarium damaged kernels. Careful harvesting, drying and storage strategies are the farmer’s best way to try and maximize grain quality and marketability.

The key at harvest is to try and prevent infected kernels from going into storage. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Thoroughly scout each field noting if there are any differences in infection levels between fields or if there are patterns within fields that are more affected by FHB, such as low areas or fungicide application misses.
  • Use higher fan speeds to try and blow infected kernels out the back. Research at Ridgetown found there was a tenfold decrease in Fusarium-damaged kernels in the grain sample when fan speeds were operated to deliver maximum air blast. However, the downside to this strategy is higher fan speeds can result in healthy kernels going out the back as well. And infected kernels blown out the back can provide a source of inoculum in future years.
  • Reduce combine travel speed as the slower speed allows for increased separation of the grain by allowing the increased air blast time to separate the good kernels from the infected kernels.
  • After harvest, gravity table grain separation may be effective in removing light-weight, damaged kernels. The increased marketability of the cleaned grain may pay for the cost of the clean-out process.

For additional information on harvest, drying and storage, as well as seed and feed considerations, visit MAFRD’s website at http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/plant-diseases/managing-fusarium-head-blight-harvest.html

Submitted by:  Pam de Rocquigny, Provincial Cereal Crops Specialist

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