Diseases Impacting Grain Yields Costing Farmers Billions in Losses

Leaf Rust in Wheat

In 2007 a severe epidemic of leaf rust in the great plains of North America produced a staggering yield loss of 14%. In some areas losses exceeded 50% due to favorable environmental conditions leading to the perfect storm of disease onset and development. Billions of dollars in losses can be attributed to leaf rust in the past decades.

Yellow Rust is by far the most prevalent type of leaf rust and has caused numerous epidemics in North America.

Wheat Leaf Rust

There are three types of wheat leaf rust but they are all caused by the same basic fungal pathogen. Puccina rust fungus. The fungal pathogens that cause each diseases are:

Black Rust

o Puccina Triticina

Brown Rust

o Puccina Recondita

Yellow Rust

o Puccina Striiformis

Each of is a different “breed” of the fungus. Of these three types, Yellow Rust is by far the most prevalent type of leaf rust and caused numerous epidemics in North America. It has a global reach with devastating seasonal losses in India it has affected wheat yields in South America as well.

Wheat Rust is easy to spot because of its distinct symptoms. Infected wheat (infected with Yellow Rust) will show dark, or brown, splotches known as Pustules. Pustules are lesions on the skin that are symptomatic of a disease that affects the integumentary system; the integumentary system is the system that encloses a body.

These lesions on the plant stem can then spread to other plants via spores that get released into the air and spread among the crop. It is vital that farmers monitor their crops, particularly the new ones, to catch any sign of Yellow Rust and eliminate those plants before it can become an epidemic.

There are fungicides that will help slow the spread of Yellow Rust, and other types of rust. The most effective fungicides include the Azole, and the Succinate Dehydrogenase Inhibitor (SDHI). Both are effective at protecting farmer crops and preventing the disease from spreading in the first place. But if you need an immediate knock down then you should look towards the Morpholine fungicide family. That family has been proven to be effective when used in a fungicide mixture.

Billions of dollars in losses can be attributed to leaf rust in the past decades.

Another method of prevention, especially in high risk areas, is to plant disease resistance seeds. On top of that you can also grow resistant varieties of wheat next to susceptible varieties to limit the spread of the disease if some of your plants do contract the disease. Ever since the disease was properly diagnosed in 1882. Since then, farmers and breeders have bred for resistance. However, the disease also breeds to be effective in an attempt to negate the farmer.

Wheat Streak Mosaic

Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus (WSMV) is a virus that belongs to the Potyviridae family and is in the Tritimovirus genus. WSMV is one of the few viruses that has been known to cause a 100% mortality rate among crops which makes it of interest to both scientists and farmers. Losing an entire crop is far more devastating, and unusual, than losing 25%-50% of the crop yield. Scientists are interested in understanding how the WSMV can wipe out crops without some plants developing, or being born with, a resistance that allows them to survive.

WSMV is hard to defend against. It is transmitted through the wheat curl mite (Aceria tosichella) and it can overwinter making it harder to defend against. Some common practices include destroying all volunteer wheat and grass plants before you plant the year’s crop. This will help get rid of most of the overwintering mites so that they can’t infect your crops. There are also recommended plant dates for specific regions. Make sure to check what times are the best to plant your crops for your specific region.

There are no chemical or biological agents available that target the mite in particular. This means that if you discover that a field has been infected then your highest chance of eliminating the disease is to simply eliminate every plant within the field to deny the mite a home. Without hosts, the mites will soon die out and you can use the field again without fear of it becoming infected again.

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