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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ohio Head Scab Prediction Model Now Serves 23 States

April 28, 2004

WOOSTER, Ohio — A Fusarium head scab forecast model, in place in Ohio the past few years to help wheat growers fight the disease, has been broadened to include disease predictions for 23 states. The Fusarium Head Blight Prediction Center ( is the first and largest early warning system of its kind in the nation. The system is a joint project between Ohio State University Extension, Penn State University, Purdue University, North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University and the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. Using such information as the flowering dates of a grower’s wheat, the type of wheat planted and data from National Weather Service weather stations, the system predicts the level of risk a grower may face from head scab — a disease that attacks wheat during its flowering period. “Fusarium is a very significant disease, not only from yield loss but there are contaminants associated with the disease called mycotoxins that are toxic to humans and animals,” said Pat Lipps, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist. “It affects growers, millers, bakers and consumers.” The Fusarium Head Blight Prediction Center Web site is an expansion of Ohio’s head scab forecasting model that also uses wheat flowering dates and weather data to predict the level of head scab risk in any given part of the state. The system, developed using over 100 location-years of weather data throughout the United States, was of great interest to Penn State’s State Climate Office, as well as the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, because of the information that could potentially be provided to wheat growers in other states. “Penn State has access to all National Weather Service information, so the group there was looking for a practical way to use that information,” said Lipps. “The U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative has a section to study the epidemiology of the disease and we (Ohio State) are a part of that group. They were interested in determining if we could look at the environment and predict when a head scab epidemic could occur.” The Web site is currently online and running on real-time. For example, areas in more southern states are now receiving risk predicitons of head scab since the crop is already in the flowering stage. For Ohio, growers would not be using the site until the third or fourth week in May. “I think growers who have had severe problems with head scab would be looking at this system, as well as consultants and millers and bakers — anybody in the wheat industry who has a stake in the success of the crop,” said Lipps. The Web site covers the following states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. The Web site also provides general information on head scab, a description of how the forecasting system works and how to use it. Lipps said the risk prediction model is 80 percent accurate and the Web site can provide disease risk information within 20 kilometers (roughly 12 miles) using National Weather Service information known as Rapid Update Cycle (RUC). The system allows ysers to combine temperature with relative humidity to produce disease risk contour maps within such a close distance. The Web site also makes use of multiple weather stations in each state, which provide additional data on temperature, relative humidity and rainfall. The relative risk in a given area is highlighted by red (high risk), yellow (caution), or green (low risk). “It’s still considered an experimental system, but if we can keep it going, it will become an invaluable tool for U.S. wheat growers,” said Lipps. The research to develop the models for the Web site is being funded in part through the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.

Candace Pollock
Pat Lipps