WOOSTER, Ohio — While corn growers continue to fret over potential disease issues with their crop, wheat growers are sitting pretty.
The crop is now entering flag-leaf emergence, the stage of development when the top leaf of the plant is unfurled. Overall, wheat growth is right on schedule.
"The crop was not hurt by the recent cold weather," said Pat Lipps, an Ohio State University plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "While the cold weather may have slowed down the growth of the crop, there was no freezing injury, even on the leaf tips."
Some powdery mildew is being detected on susceptible varieties, but, overall, diseases are low. Flag-leaf emergence stage marks the start of scouting for diseases, and Lipps encourages growers to get in their fields and begin identifying any potential problems.
"If mildew is detected, growers should mark those fields and return in five to seven days to see how far the disease has progressed," said Lipps. "If the disease has reached the threshold level — on the second leaf of the plant, the leaf below the flag leaf — then they need to make a decision about whether or not to spray." Growers should look for small, white pustules on the lower leaves and leaf sheaths in the wheat canopy.
Researchers are already gearing up for potential issues with head scab. The Fusarium Head Blight Prediction Center, a Web-based forecasting model maintained by Ohio State and several other land-grant universities, is already up and running for 2005. Growers in the southern United States, where wheat is already flowering, may find the site useful (http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu) in identifying areas of potential risk to head scab.
"If weather stays normal for us through May, wheat will probably start flowering in northern Ohio by the end of the month," said Lipps.
According to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio's winter wheat is over 75 percent in "good" or "excellent" condition.