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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Despite Shaky Start, Wheat Looks Promising in Home Stretch

June 29, 2006

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Ohio's wheat crop is winding down for the season and prospects for a good harvest are looking up.


Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, said that despite a rough start with potential drought, nutrient deficiency and disease problems, the crop is on its way to producing good yields.

"We probably won't see close to record yields like we saw last year, but I'd say we will see pretty decent yields," said Paul, who also holds a partial Ohio State University Extension appointment. "We may have had a shaky start, but we had cool temperatures during grain fill which extended the grain fill period, so it all balanced itself out."

Wheat has already been harvested in parts of Ohio, such as the southern and south central regions, and northern counties will probably begin harvesting within a week. During the growing season, the crop was faced with some diseases, such as powdery mildew, Stagonospora leaf and glume blotch, leaf rust and head scab, but except for a few areas with high levels, most of the disease levels were low and caused little problems.

"We saw more leaf rust this year than last year and that was probably because of the mild winter, which allowed the leaf rust fungus to overwinter here in the state. Some areas saw high levels of Stagonospora. But the good news is that these two diseases stepped in late in the growing season and are unlikely to affect yield in a big way," said Paul.

Additionally, levels of Fusarium head blight, or head scab, ranged from low to moderate througout the state.

"Some fields had up to 30 percent incidence of infection, but it was very localized," said Paul.

He recommends that growers reporting moderately high levels of head scab exercise caution when harvesting and storing the grain, as grain infected with head scab runs a greater risk of producing vomitoxin -- a toxin that is harmful to humans and animals.

"Harvest as soon as possible, adjust the combine to blow out smaller, shriveled kernels, get your moisture level down to 13.5 percent and keep up with proper storage conditions to reduce the potential for vomitoxin buildup in storage," said Paul.

Paul also emphasized that despite the wide variety of diseases present in wheat fields, only the Fusarium species produce vomitoxin in wheat.

"There is some concern as to whether other disease-causing fungi, like Stagonospora and Septoria produce vomitoxin, and they do not," said Paul. "I can understand that names of pathogens change and the diseases sound so similar that it's easy to confuse them, especially if you don't work in pathology every day."

According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, the wheat crop is rated over 90 percent in fair to excellent condition.

For weekly updates on Ohio's field crops, check out the Crop Observation Recommendation Network (C.O.R.N.) newsletter at

Candace Pollock
Pierce Paul