Fusarium alarm sounded in Sask.

Farmers in northeastern Saskatchewan should stay alert for fusarium head blight, according to the province's forecast map. | Map via saskwheat.ca / weatherinnovations.com

Farmers in northeastern Saskatchewan should stay alert for fusarium head blight, according to the province’s forecast map.

“There are some other areas over by Hudson Bay and around the Melfort area that are high and that’s because they were wetter last year,” said Sherri Roberts, Saskatchewan Agriculture cropping management specialist for the southeastern region.

View the complete fusarium head blight risk map here.

While inoculum levels are higher in the northeast, the southeast moved from a low-level possibility to a moderate level over the past week.

“Because we were so dry (last year) in a lot of the southeast, we’re still kind of sitting in that moderate range, although it could explode tomorrow if we keep getting (these) wet and humid conditions because inoculum will survive in the soil for two years,” she said.

Oats are the least susceptible cereal grain to fusarium, while corn is the most sensitive. With 100,000 acres, the southeast leads the province with the most corn acres.

“A lot of it is forage corn, but their biggest problem is they’re growing it on the same acres over and over and over again, and then those fusarium levels just build up,” she said.

However, many producers have been proactively spraying for fusarium, said Shannon Friesen, also from Saskatchewan Agriculture.

“(It’s) over in the east-central area, as well as the northeast, but there have been some producers on the west side of the province as well. Some see it as cheap insurance, especially because the conditions this year are a lot more conducive to having that humidity and some, of course, are spraying because their risk is higher than we saw last year,” she said.

Roberts said southeastern Saskatchewan’s biggest problem this summer has been uneven germination.

“Parts of the field will have started heading out already and then the rest of them, the flag leaf hasn’t come up yet. So, there’s a whole bunch of irregularity in the field and it makes timing of spraying really difficult,” she said.

“Some of them are opting not to spray. Because the window is so large, they’re just throwing up their hands and saying, ‘well what happens, happens.’ ”

Rainfall in some areas such as Lampman, which received 250 millimetres over four days in early June, also hampered some producers from getting into their fields. Other producers wanted to reseed due to dry conditions but had to wait for fields to dry out.

“We’ve got some cereal crops here maybe five, six inches high, so, if we don’t have a frost, we’re going to have a real long extended harvest down here,” Roberts said.

Farmers should be out scouting and looking for the symptoms of fusarium, she said.

They should also be mowing grass around their field edges.

“A lot of those brome grasses and weeds hold their seeds for a long time. And that flowering period, that provides an environment for the fusarium to get going and then it just has to shift into your field when your weeds starts to flower,” she said.

For many cereal crops, there’s still time to cut grass and control the spread of fusarium this year.

“It all depends what stage their field is at because a lot of these younger fields out here haven’t come to head yet and fusarium can only infect the plants when they’re flowering,” she said.

“If they get those field edges mowed, when their field finally does come into flowering, they will have cut down the chances of there being fusarium inoculum in the area.”

Contact william.dekay@producer.com

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