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Dryness, Disease Ganging Up on 2015 Winter Wheat Crop

As if winter wheat farmers aren't already concerned enough about winterkill in the 2015 crop, now they need to keep an eye on stripe rust.
Reports from Bob Hunger, Extension wheat pathologist at Oklahoma State University, indicate stripe rust has been found in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and presumable is "working its way north across Oklahoma," he writes in his weekly Plant Disease Update.
"Conditions around Stillwater the last few weeks have been ideal, with cool temperatures and light but frequent moisture in the form of rain, dew, and fog," Hunger says.

No leaf rust or powdery mildew has been found yet in northern Oklahoma, he adds.
In Kansas, the nation's largest producer of hard red winter wheat, the concern of stripe rust is low, according to Erick DeWolf, plant pathologist for Kansas State University Extension.
Dry conditions in the state from October to December, and again in February, reduce the risk of diseases in Kansas, and so far in 2015, the conditions for forming stripe rust have not been favorable. It's too early to tell what effect the conditions may have on leaf rust.

"The bottom line is that it is important to stay current on the disease situation in the Southern states and scout the local fields for any early signs of rust," he says. 
If stripe rust becomes established early, wheat growers may need to apply fungicide to susceptible varieties if yield potential looks good. Applying a fungicide now as a precautionary measure isn't necessary. "The most effective fungicide applications are those applied just prior to heading of the wheat crop," DeWolf says. "We still have time to gather more information and make a good decision."

Thus far in 2015, the winter wheat crop is in mixed condition. According to the March 23 Crop Progress reports from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, wheat in the good to excellent categories in key wheat-producing states is:

  • Kansas: 41%

  • Colorado: 55%

  • Oklahoma: 44%

  • Texas: 55%

Since the wheat crop broke dormancy this spring, sporadic precipitation has fallen in areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas, but the majority of the wheat-producing region in these states - plus Nebraska - is in severe to exceptional drought, according to the March 17 U.S. Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska.

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