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Common bunt found in more wheat fields this year

Common bunt, a fungus known for the fishy smell it can produce, was found in more Kansas wheat than usual this year, according Doug Jardine, a Kansas State University Research and Extension plant pathology leader.

The affected wheat was found generally in the north central part of the state, from the Washington, Kansas, area south to Lindsborg. Common bunt causes the entire kernel to be replaced by bunt spores, but the outer wall of the kernel usually remains intact. "The result is a dark, puffy-looking kernel called a bunt ball," Jardine says.

The fungus can be easily diagnosed by viewing spores under a microscope, he says. The smell is also a dead giveaway. Jardine says it only takes infection in around one percent of the plants in a field for there to be a noticeable stink.

Now that this year’s wheat crop is in the bin, producers should be aware that wheat seed treatment may be needed to keep the problem from recurring in the next crop, Jardine says.

"Common bunt is primarily seed-borne in Kansas," he says. "The most likely cause of the problem is continually planting bin-run seed without using a seed treatment. Producers should get new seed regularly or use a seed treatment fungicide."

In very dry summers, the disease can also be soil-borne. "Either way, seed treatments should work," he says.

Jardine says most commercial seed treatments work well on common bunt. Click here for a list of treatments on the K-State Web site.

Common bunt, a fungus known for the fishy smell it can produce, was found in more Kansas wheat than usual this year, according Doug Jardine, a Kansas State University Research and Extension plant pathology leader.

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