Using research to fight Fusarium head blight
By Lauren Comin, Director of Research
Reducing the impacts of Fusarium head blight (FHB) has long been a priority for the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions. The commissions collaborate with funding partners across Canada to support research that will provide producers with protection from the negative consequences of infection from several angles.
As with any pest, for Fusarium graminearum, and other causal agents of FHB within Fusarium species, an integrated management approach is recommended (see the website ManageFHB.ca for more details). Our investment approach has likewise supported projects which provide multiple management options.
Once a disease is established in an area, farmers should consider choosing varieties with strong resistance packages. Unfortunately, the integration of FHB resistance into bread wheat has been challenging. Durum wheat has proven to be an even greater challenge to researchers.
Despite challenges, scientists are exploiting every tool and technique available to them to increase genetic resistance to the disease. The commissions have funded upstream projects looking at developing markers to better detect the presence of resistance genes to supporting nurseries where potential varieties are tested in environments conducive to infection to see how well they fare.
Some of the current and completed upstream and genetics projects include:
Agronomic management approaches
While choosing varieties that are resistant to disease is a good first line of defense, it is imperative to support genetics with agronomic techniques which will deter infection and spread. Without proper management of genetics, we run the risk of resistance genes becoming ineffective against the pathogen.
Agronomic techniques for FHB prevention can include chemical control, cultural control, mechanical control and biological control. In addition, the commissions have provided funding towards surveillance and monitoring and the development of risk assessment tools to aid in decision making.
Some of the current agronomy projects include: