Improving fusarium head blight management in durum wheat in Saskatchewan

  • Term: Three years, beginning in 2016

  • Funding Amount: $120,750

  • Lead Researcher(s): Randy Kutcher (U of S)

  • Funding Partners: Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture - Agriculture Development Fund (ADF)

Project Description

Durum wheat comprises between 16 to 20% of the area seeded to wheat in Canada every year and is used for pasta and couscous. The largest importing region is north Africa where it is used primarily for couscous (Goodman 2015). In 2014, 5.2 M tonnes of durum was produced on 1.7 M hectares in Canada (Statistics Canada 2014). Even a small per hectare yield loss due to FHB results in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars per grower and millions of dollars collectively. Fusarium head blight can devastate individual crops due to high yield loss, high toxin content in the grain or both. If the damaged kernels or level of toxin is above certain levels the grain can be unsaleable (graded salvage), which is a total loss for the grower. In 2014, there were many farmers, particularly durum growers, who suffered this fate.

The project will identify fusarium species and toxins produced from FHB infected spring and durum wheat from the 2014 epidemic. FHB is caused by a complex of fusarium species. This may be one of the reasons disease severity, toxin production and rate of disease development varies among fields and regions of the province. Knowledge of the fusarium species responsible and the toxins produced may facilitate improvement in control strategies. The outcome of this project will improve fungicide timing for wheat growers in Saskatchewan, particularly in durum wheat, where genetic resistance to the disease is poor. Wheat growers in Saskatchewan have been increasingly frustrated with poor results from fungicide application to control FHB. They will benefit from guidance to improve this disease management strategy.