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Prepare for Head Scab Management Now to Avoid Stress Later

March 9, 2021
This agronomic image shows untreated wheat infected with Fusarium head blight.

Untreated wheat infected with Fusarium head blight.

From unexpected freeze damage to varying Fusarium head blight (head scab) pressure, 2020 certainly presented challenges for the wheat season. Although we can’t predict what this year has in store, you can take proactive measures to prevent head scab from negatively impacting crop quality and hurting your bottom line.

Thankfully, head scab didn’t significantly damage wheat crops in 2020, but according to the U.S. Wheat and Barely Scab Initiative, areas of TN experienced conditions conducive for head scab development, and some KY fields encountered high DON levels. Disease pressure can vary year to year, so you’ll want to prepare for potential head scab risk to safeguard yield potential. See below for questions about head scab management and how to get a head start on this costly disease in 2021.

How Do I Assess the Risk for Head Scab?

According to researchers at the University of Tennessee, extended periods of relative humidity (greater than 90%) and temperatures between 59-86° F are favorable conditions for infection. Additionally, the pathogen that causes head scab can overwinter on corn residue and in the soil. It can infect next season’s crop, so take into consideration if your field has a history of head scab or if you’re following corn with wheat.

When Should I Scout for Head Scab?

Researchers at North Carolina State University say to scout for the disease before wheat heads turn golden. Symptoms of head scab include bleached wheat heads or spikelets and white or pink spores during prolonged moist weather. Infection can occur from head emergence to harvest, but is the most destructive at or directly after flowering.

Should I Apply a Fungicide?

Consider a preventive fungicide application if your area’s weather conditions are ripe for head scab or if it was previously found in your fields. We recommend Miravis® Ace fungicide for superior efficacy against head scab and other key wheat diseases. Offering applications as early as 50% head emergence up to flowering, you can enjoy more freedom while also enhancing crop quality and better protecting both the main heads and tillers for maximum yield potential.

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