New tools help producers fight fusarium

Alberta wheat growers who are concerned about fusarium head blight now have access to a new tool that allows them to monitor the disease, assess risk and make informed disease management decisions.


The Alberta fusarium head blight risk tool was developed by the Alberta Wheat Commission and the Alberta Climate Information Service (ACIS) with help from researchers at Alberta Agriculture and Agriculture Canada.


The tool uses hourly weather data collected at more than 370 weather stations across the province and converts the information into a disease severity index.


The index is expressed numerically and updated hourly, providing farmers with an accurate localized picture of fusarium risk in their specific production areas.


Risk calculations are based on a seven-day history of rain, temperature and humidity.


The tool can be used on mobile devices including smartphones, which allows farmers to remotely view hourly updates on fusarium severity for their specific locations.


“The key to a successful growing season is to have the best information possible when it comes to risks that our crops face,” said AWC chair Kevin Auch. “With FHB becoming more problematic in Alberta, a full scope of risk will be a major help with decision making when it comes to fungicide applications for disease control.”


Fusarium has become an increasingly prevalent disease affecting wheat and other cereal grain crops in Alberta. It has been affecting producers in the eastern Prairies for many years but more recently it has been moving west through Saskatchewan and Alberta, thanks partly to weather conditions that are conducive to its spread.


The AWC risk tool was developed in response to the increased threat.


The commission initiated the project along with ACIS unit lead Ralph Wright and technical analyst Pawel Pytlack. 


Other experts involved in the project included Alberta Agriculture plant pathologist Michael Harding, provincial plant disease researcher Neil Whatley and Agriculture Canada plant disease researcher Kelly Turkington. 


“Each day, ACIS collects nearly 130,000 hourly weather observations from more than 370 stations province wide,” said Wright. 


“Weather conditions have enormous impacts on farming operations. Coupling the weather observations to a risk tool is a fantastic example of how weather data can be used to help producers make timely, informed decisions.”


Alberta farmers can find the tool at agriculture.alberta.ca/acis/m#!fusarium. Click on the red pin in the top right corner of the web page and then choose the weather station closest to your farm.


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