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Wheat Farmers: Scout Now for Stripe Rust

Crop consultants have found "a heavy infestation" of stripe rust, a disease that can rob almost half of existing yield potential, in wheat fields in southeastern Kansas. Plant pathologists say it's going to be critical from now on to watch closely for the disease, especially in those fields planted to varieties that are most susceptible to it.

The worst case of the disease, which thrives in damp, humid conditions, was discovered near Altamont in southeast Kansas, and "several more moderate cases" were found in the surrounding Labette County. Leaf rust has also been found in the area and specialists say both diseases "may be active" in surrounding counties, according to a report from Kansas Wheat. Recent rainfall in the parched state of Kansas, though needed badly, is helping the disease develop, officials say.

"Stripe rust thrives in cool, humid climates, which most of the state is experiencing," according to a report from Jordan Hildebrand with Kansas Wheat. "The disease grows rapidly between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, but is inhibited when night-time temperatures reach 68 degrees Fahrenheit or after several days of temperatures in the mid 80s."

Fungicide treatments are an option, but many farmers -- especially in this case -- take more of a "wait and see" approach because of cost considerations, especially when faced with lower yields because of drought conditions earlier in the growing season. Kansas State University plant pathologist Erick DeWolf tells Kansas Wheat if you're going to spray a fungicide, start with the fields you have remaining that have the highest remaining yield potential.

"Fungicides may be warranted if the disease is found on the upper leaves prior to heading," DeWolf says in a Kansas Wheat report. "Fields with a good yield potential should be the top priority. If the disease is still restricted to the lower leaves, fungicides may not be needed; however, it is important to keep checking because stripe rust can increase rapidly."

If you're still unsure as to whether you should apply a fungicide, DeWolf says you need at least a 5-bushel response from the application to break even, though adds if stripe rust infestations are severe enough, that may be easy to achieve. "Stripe rust is a disease that can be damaging and is not one to take lightly," according to Kansas Wheat.

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