By Alyssa Collins, Research Associate

As you make decisions for your winter small grains, take actions now that will enhance your crop’s health this fall and into the next year. 

First, be sure to ask your dealer about lines with genetic resistance to some of our important diseases. Several of the breeding companies have offerings that include some level of resistance against powdery mildew, scab and others. This should be your first consideration in the fight against small grain diseases. This is critical when it comes to managing head scab, as the best way to get satisfactory control of scab and toxin is to combine the use of a resistant to moderately resistant variety with proper fungicide application. Virginia Tech has some very helpful evaluation of wheat and barley varieties.

And University of Vermont has some useful information about relative DON levels in the varieties they tested.

Second, ensure that the seed you select is clean, undamaged, certified seed. If you choose to use stored seed, avoid seed lots that have not been thoroughly cleaned and those from fields with a history of glume blotch or scab. Low test-weights, discoloration and poor germination rates are also causes for concern.

Third, give some thought to fungicidal treatments for your seed. These treatments do a good job against pathogens that can be carried over on or in seed like the bunts and smuts, glume blotch and scab. Treatments are also effective at reducing stand and yield loss from seed rots and early season diseases like those caused by Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. This can be especially important if planting is delayed and the seed bed is cool and wet. 

Fungicidal treatments will not provide control of bacterial diseases or viruses. Seed treatment will also not protect your wheat and barley from the head scab that occurs in the spring — it only provides protection for the damping off that may occur at germination as the result of planting some scabby seed. Seed treatment will not make up for bin-run seed quality issues, although it may help a bit. It is best to select multiple seed treatments to provide activity against the range of pathogens and added protection from insects. While there is not independent efficacy data yet for some of the new chemistries and formulations, you can find some recent information at Ohio State’s website to help you make your choice.