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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Some Wheat Yellowing from Stress

December 22, 2004

WOOSTER, Ohio — The wheat crop in Ohio is on its way to another growing season, but a portion of the crop is already off to a shaky start.

Pat Lipps, an Ohio State University research and Extension plant pathologist said that wheat in areas through northwest and northeast Ohio — to the tune of 40,000 to 50,000 areas — are turning yellow.

"This means that the plants are stressed, and anytime you put stress on wheat plants before going into winter dormancy, you could lose those plants by the spring," said Lipps, with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "There's nothing we can do about it. Growers are just going to have to wait and see what those plants do when the crop starts to "green-up" in March."

Crop specialists speculate that the stress could be caused from several factors, most notably the Fusarium fungus that causes head scab and specific environmental conditions.

"We think that the Fusarium came into the fields on seed. We know this because we isolated the fungus from the roots and crowns of the yellowing plants and a large amount of it turned out to be Fusarium that is known to be on seed," said Lipps. "However, wheat seed throughout Ohio was infected with Fusarium and the yellowed wheat is only isolated in certain parts of the state. In those areas, there was some sort of environmental condition that occurred that triggered this problem."

Specialists believe that extremely dry weather during planting may be to blame for the current condition of the wheat crop in such counties as Van Wert, Paulding, Putnam and Henry.

"The crop was planted into dry soil. The plants got a little rain at the end of September and that was enough to germinate the seed. Then it was dry for the next two weeks," said Lipps. "There probably wasn't enough moisture to keep the seeds growing and emerging well, and this probably created the opportunity for Fusarium to develop."

Rhizoctonia was also identified on some of the yellowed wheat. The fungus is also triggered by dry conditions.

"Overall, the wheat looks good. It has gone into winter dormancy a bit smaller than I had hoped for — two to three tillers per plant. We would have liked to have seen at least three to four tillers per plant," said Lipps. "But fall conditions have been sufficient and the crop should fair well come spring."

Candace Pollock
Pat Lipps