The winter wheat crop is ahead of schedule by at least two weeks, thanks to exceptionally mild March weather and recent rains.
Syngenta and the Cereals Disease Laboratory are reporting rust and powdery mildew development on winter wheat in the Central and Southern Great Plains from Texas to Nebraska. Syngenta recommends an aggressive scouting program along with weather monitoring and timely fungicide application.
This spring's weather has created ideal conditions for travelling rust spores, which every year ride the winds northward from south Texas to the Dakotas, infecting crops along the way. Rust disease accounts for yield losses of more than 20 million bushels annually, according to the Cereals Disease Laboratory.
Experts predict that this spring's moderate weather conditions will cause a rise in disease prevalence in the Central and Southern Great Plains. Greg McCormack, a Syngenta cereals crop specialist based in Kansas, recommended that growers closely monitor crops for flag leaf emergence and prepare for fungicide application. McCormack said, "Not only do we have more yield potential to protect than the past couple of years, but there is also potential for more disease pressure."
Timing is the most important factor in disease management this season. Wheat growers will need to make fungicide decisions before disease is readily apparent in the field. In the past, when growers have seen good yield potential and prime conditions for disease development, preventative fungicide application has been a profitable strategy. Flag leaf emergence is the critical point; protecting the flag leaf helps maximize yield potential because it is the leaf responsible for feeding the grain and contributing most to the final grain yield.
Syngenta recommends that growers in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska begin scouting fields and prepare for fungicide applications.