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Wheat Streak Mosaic a Timely Issue at WheatU Event
USAgNet - 08/11/2017

Nearly 250 Kansas wheat farmers met in Wichita this past week for the WheatU event, sponsored by High Plains Journal and Indigo Ag.

Dr. Erick De Wolf, professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University, was the keynote speaker and his topic was a timely one - "Wheat Streak Mosaic, an old enemy with devastating impact." The viral disease caused a conservative $76.8 million in direct losses to wheat farmers this year alone, a loss of 19.2 million bushels of wheat.

De Wolf said that from a historical perspective, Wheat Streak Mosaic annually causes yield losses of 1.5% up to this year's 5.7% yield loss.

But why was Wheat Streak Mosaic so bad this year?

De Wolf said it was a combination of management practices and the environment.

Fall weather conditions were ideal for the spread of wheat curl mites, which carry the disease and the Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus. Mild fall temperatures favored the continued spread. In addition there was no hard freeze until late November in many areas.

De Wolf says the best way to get rid of Wheat Streak Mosaic is to control volunteer wheat, as volunteer wheat is the most common host of the virus and the curl mite. Volunteer wheat can be removed with herbicides or tillage, but it's absolutely essential to "allow time for herbicides to work," he said.

"Volunteer wheat must be dead and dry for two weeks prior to planting," said De Wolf. "It's necessary to have a wheat free period, and you should watch out for volunteer in sneaky places, such as in double crop and cover crops."

"If your volunteer wheat is dying right at the same time as your newly-planted wheat is emerging, where do you think those mites are going to go?" De Wolf asked. "If conditions are right, they will move directly into the newly-emerged wheat."

Kansas wheat farmers can also help stop the spread of the disease by choosing wheat varieties with the best available resistance and by avoiding early planting.

De Wolf said there are WSM2 resistance genes available now in wheat varieties Oakley CL and Joe, but the resistance isn't as effective at temperatures above 70 degrees F. He also pointed out other varieties - TAM 112, Byrd and Avery - slow the development of mite populations.

By avoiding early planting, Kansas wheat farmers are able to avoid times when wheat mite populations are the highest in late summer and to decrease the interval between planting and fall freeze events.

But De Wolf acknowledges that in many areas, planting has to happen when moisture is available.

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