But now Fusarium head blight (FHB), a serious fungal disease that affects kernel development in cereal crops, is increasingly posing a threat to producers throughout Alberta, including Flagstaff County.
In fact, in 2016 nearly 25% of all crop samples in Alberta tested positive for the disease — up from about 6% in 2015.
The most damaging species of FHB is 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.
F. graminearum is listed as a designated pest in the Agricultural Pests Act. A lab certificate showing that the seed lot in question was tested and found to be non-detectable for F. graminearum must accompany all cereal and corn intended for use as seed in Alberta.
What can be done?
Producers must avoid planting seed that is infected with F. graminearum. Seed of susceptible crop species must be tested by a seed testing laboratory and only seed with non-detectable levels of F. graminearum is to be used for seeding purposes.
To help slow down the buildup of infested crop residues, a crop rotation away from cereals to non-hosts, including canola, pulses and forage legumes should be considered for at least two years. This will allow enough time for infested residue to decompose before the next cereal crop is seeded.
Using the least susceptible varieties will help to reduce the risk of FHB and perhaps the potential for buildup of F. graminearum.
For more information, watch the following four-minute video created by Alberta Agriculture by clicking on the image below.