Jun
10

Loose Smut in Wheat

by Glen Arnold, Putnam County

While most farmers are watching wheat fields for the development of head scab (heads bleaching out) a few farmers have found scattered amounts of Loose Smut. Loose Smut occurs wherever wheat, spelt and barley are grown. The name Loose Smut describes the characteristic symptoms of the diseased heads as they extend from the boot in late spring. The kernels and glumes (chaff) are converted into black fungal spores which blow away, leaving only a sooty appearing spike.

With all the rain since head emergence, the Loose Smut is mostly washed away and the affected heads now appear as just an empty stem with some black edges where wheat kernels should be.

Loose Smut is caused by a fungus. Wheat fields with loose smut will not get any worse than they already are. The fungus does not spread from plant to plant so a fungicide is not needed. Due to the development of resistant varieties and systemic seed treatment fungicides, the disease is seen only infrequently in Ohio except when growers plant bin-run seed that has not been treated or we have an exceptionally wet weather.

If you save wheat seed from the 2011 crop be absolutely sure to treat the seed before planting this fall or the 2012 crop could have half the wheat heads infected with loose smut.

Here is a Loose Smut fact sheet http://ohioline.osu.edu/ac-fact/0012.html

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