Keeping Head Scab at Bay

As growers get set for spring wheat planting, one important thing is getting ahead of head scab in 2024. Jason Snell is an agronomic service representative with Syngenta. He talks about the signs and symptoms of Fusarium head blight or head scab and how it impacts yield.

“Some of the signs and symptoms generally start with discoloration of the head of the cereal crop, starting in the center of the head and spreading out. It can look early on like a slight discoloration. If you look closely, you can see some pink or orange-ish coloring, which is the fungal growth on those kernels as it spreads and continues to degrade the kernels, you can end up with shrunken up and shriveled kernels- we call them coffin kernels- that are then processed through the combine at harvest time. The best-case scenario is they’re separated from the clean grain and sent out the back of the combine. Worst case scenario as they go into the grain tank and mix with the other clean green, then spreading the infection and the DON levels in the final sample.”

He talks about head scab pressure in 2023 and what growers should keep in mind this year.

“Head scab, overall, was pretty low. There were some hotspots but it was generally pretty low due to the drier conditions. Wheat acres were up, but dry conditions limited the growth of the head scab. It’s hard to forecast for the next year yet. We do have some efficient forecast models that we can use that will give you an idea, give the growers an idea of what their pressure may be based on weather conditions taken from local weather stations. So, you can go all the way down to your local zip code and kind of get a map of what your area is. As we get closer with winter wheat, we are looking at earlier in June range, and with spring wheat you’re open later into July when you start looking at those forecasts and trying to nail down what we’re looking at.”

Snell talks about the steps growers should take when protecting their wheat investment.

“We’ve got some good varieties of wheat that are more resistant to Fusarium head scab. A lot of breeding effort has gone into that over the many years of development. Rotations are very important. Not following a corn crop is one good start. Wheat following corn has a higher likelihood of catching a Fusarium infection. The final step is to use an efficient and effective fungicide such as Miravis® Ace  at that heading time.”

He talks about the disease control and plant-health benefits with “Cleaner & Greener” fungicides from Syngenta.

“’Cleaner and Greener’ is something we noticed early on, specifically with our new Miravis brands. Products in this Miravis family have labels on multiple crops, and on cereal specifically, with Miravis Ace for Fusarium head blight. We noticed a nice greening effect on the crop at the time of application or shortly afterward. And then that continued out into the stalks, and the ripened crop was a nice golden color, healthy color. We saw that repeated every time we’ve used it over the years. It just ends up with a nice clean crop at the end of the year that is as disease-free as you can hope for. Another advantage Miravis Ace brings is a wider application window. We feel comfortable going from head emergence up to the end of flowering.”

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