Protect 2007 Wheat from Diseases

Plant pathologist recommends planting certified, treated and resistant seed. Compiled by staff

Published on: Aug 4, 2006

Wheat growers can protect 2007's wheat yields and grain quality by planting certified, treated and resistant wheat seeds.

"The importance of using clean, certified and treated seed cannot be overemphasized," says Stephen Wegulo University of Nebraska-Lincoln plant pathologist.

Using farm-saved or bin-run seed most likely will result in poor variety purity, a low germination percentage, poor stand establishment, and disease, insect and weed problems, states Wegulo.

Total loss can result if grain is heavily contaminated with fungal spores, and additional costs can be incurred in treating diseases, insects and weeds resulting from use of low quality seed. "In terms of dollars, the return from using clean, certified and treated seed will almost always exceed the cost of the seed," he says. "It's an insurance that is definitely worth the cost."

Stinking smut is one of several seed-transmitted fungal wheat diseases. Other diseases include loose smut, ergot, Fusarium head blight or scab and black point. Black chaff, a bacterial disease, also is seed transmitted.

"By using a combination of seed treatments, clean seed and planting resistant varieties, seed-transmitted wheat diseases can be managed," he says.

Seed treatments can control seed-transmitted pathogens that may be surface-borne on the seed or internally seed-borne. Additionally, they can control soil-borne pathogens and insects and improve stand establishment.

"It is preferable to buy certified and treated seed or have it cleaned and treated by a commercial seed conditioner," Wegulo says. "If seed is treated on-farm, it is essential to clean it first before treating."

Cleaning seed before treatment is especially important if seed-transmitted diseases were present in the field during the growing season. For the seed treatment to be effective, ensure thorough, uniform coverage. If possible, use a broad spectrum systemic fungicide or fungicide-insecticide combination product.

Fungicide treatments are not effective against ergot and black chaff. The best strategy for managing these diseases is using certified, pathogen-free seed.

Resistant varieties can be used in combination with seed cleaning and seed treatments to more effectively manage seed-transmitted wheat diseases.