Don’t neglect scouting for disease: pathologist

Dry conditions during last year’s growing season in Alberta kept most cereal diseases at bay, providing a silver lining to a droughty year.

Forecasts for 2016 are indicating another dry year, so low disease levels might again be expected.

However, Alberta Agriculture crop pathologist Mike Harding said wheat streak mosaic and stripe rust are two diseases to watch for in the coming season, and he warned against complacency, even if conditions are dry.

“This is one of the take-home messages from 2015, is that even though in the majority of cases the amount of disease was reduced because of the environment, these fungi don’t disappear, they don’t go away,” he said.

“They’re still around, and if the conditions are right, we will see them. So situationally, there still were some severe disease infestations.”

Harding told the Irrigated Crop Production Update in Lethbridge Jan. 19 that many early samples submitted to his lab for diagnosis had problems related to environmental stress rather than pathogens.

However, surveys showed common root rot was present in all the central Alberta barley fields that were surveyed.

Stripe rust reached critical levels in some wheat fields. Fusarium head blight incidence was low, and so was its severity, said Harding.

Ergot and mildew were bigger problems than fusarium last year.

He said growers should monitor fields for wheat streak mosaic this year because several dozen fields were found with the disease last year.

As for canola, 287 new fields were identified with clubroot last year, and it was found for the first time in the Bonnyville, Mountain View and Two Hills regions.

The new cases bring the total clubroot infested fields in Alberta to 2,154.

“In peas, root rots were still very prevalent,” Harding said.

“However the incidence and severity was down last year, and the same was true for mycosphaerella blight.”

Goss’s wilt, a corn disease first found in Alberta in 2013, is now in 42 percent of fields checked, including two in central Alberta.

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