Fungus Impact On Wheat Yields Can Cost $1.50 Per Bushel

Idaho farmers take note of serious malady.

Published on: Oct 2, 2013

The 2013 Idaho wheat harvest turned up a considerable threat to the crop as producers saw an increasing threat from fungi.

"It seems to be present in low levels throughout many areas of the state," says University of Idaho plant pathologist Juliet Marshall. "Depending on which region you farm in, it could be quite a problem."

While many areas infected were planted as a follow crop to corn, which makes the probability of fungus more prevalent, "there are a lot of reports coming in where farmers did not follow corn with grain," she  notes.

There has been no overall economic impact evaluation of the disease in Idaho.

The mounting menace took a toll in yields and  prices for southeastern Idaho farmers, she says.

Expansion of corn planting in Idaho is linked to added fungus problems for wheat crops which follow.
Expansion of corn planting in Idaho is linked to added fungus problems for wheat crops which follow.

Headblight or scab caused by Fusarium fungi is costing farmers as much as $1.50 a bushel, she notes. "I'm hearing lots of complaints from growers about being docked 45-cents to $1.50 a bushel because of headblight," she notes.

What's troubling is that Idaho has traditionally been a state where headblight has not been serious. However, that may be changing, says Marshall.

"We've had a couple of humid years recently, so that could be a reason we have more reports of headblight in Idaho.

The problem, getting worse each year, may be directly related to increases in corn production, she believes.

She characterizes the outbreak as "not excessive," however, but that could change depending on how serious the disease may become in the state.

Klasic wheat variety appears to be one of the hardest hit, she observes. The variety, produced in Idaho for three decades, has become a prized what among bakers for its taste and excellent baking quality.

Klasic may have suffered most because it flowered as the fungus was releasing spores. Unusual weather conditions may also have played a role, says Marshall.