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On-Farm Fusarium Management

Farming Smarter Project

Timeline: 2010-2012

Project Contact: Ken Coles


This project examined field scale research on durum and wheat fields for irrigation management, fungicide applications and cultural practices affecting Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) management. We took a closer look at whether irrigation timing may play a role in increasing or decreasing the occurrence of Fusarium. FHB is a cereal diseased caused by several strains of Fusarium Spp, pathogens and infection causing Fusarium damaged kernels (FDK). This can affect grade, yield and profitability of our crops. Fusarium Graminearum produces high levels of deoxynivalenol (DON), a mycotoxin that interferes with livestock and human consumption, as well as brewing, milling and pasta processing. The recommendations will be a part of an integrated pest management plan.


  1. Assess impact of irrigation and fungicides
  2. Determine which production practices most strongly influence FHB
  3. Develop recommendations for disease assessment and management


Nine co-operated field trials were conducted, and 25 random fields were surveyed annually in Southern Alberta. The field trials examined the differences between reduced and full irrigation regimes and fungicide applications. Field data collected included:

  • Pathogen identification and quantification of stubble and grain samples
  • Visual FHB ratings
  • Yield
  • Grain
  • DON analysis

The survey data captured:

  • Crop rotation
  • Wheat class and variety
  • FHB history
  • Irrigation vs. dryland
  • Tillage practice
  • Fungicide applications
  • Pathogen isolation of grain samples


Annual producer surveys indicate a significant increase in producer awareness of Fusarium head blight management. In 2010, only two fields noted a history with FHB. This increased to four fields in 2011 and then further to 16 fields in 2012. The number of fields spayed for FHB also increased, going from 4 in 2010 to 18 in 2012. Most of these fields (64%) were growing a susceptible variety – 59% of these fields had a history of FHB.

Fusarium damaged kernels (FDK) were reduced up to 3.9% with irrigation management. Fungicide treatments also reduced FDK (in 80% of the fields) by 5.5%. The pathogen analysis of grain samples showed fungicide applications reduced Fusarium Graminearum (Fg) levels by 12% in 2010 and 2012 and 7% in 2011. Combining irrigation management and fungicide application reduced FDK better than when either practice was used by itself. The net economic benefit of fungicides was positive in 4/5 fields ranged from 1-3/bu.

In fields containing Fg in grain samples, 71% had grown a host crop within the previous two years. Irrigation appeared to be a key influence as 83% of Fg infected grain samples were on irrigated fields.


  • Fungicides can work well, but do not always limit FHB. It will be crucial to also look at a combination of more resistant varieties, longer rotations and irrigation management and by using these three strategies farmers may be able to limit FHB without resorting to fungicides unless the disease risk clearly warrants it
  • Avoid highly susceptible wheat classes and varieties
  • Encourage irrigation scheduling especially since no yield losses were shown with this practice
  • Continue to increase awareness of FHB and management practices through extension activities including video production of results and recommendations
  • Extend information to other wheat growing areas as FHB continues to spread and is well established in southern AB, especially under irrigation
  • Inform growers that dryland can be at risk as well when moisture is available
  • Develop continued surveys perhaps work with seed testing labs
  • Monitor environmental conditions during flowering critical for disease development and may limit the impact and usefulness of some or all management strategies
  • Work with grain graders to ensure FDK levels are correct and determine relationship with DON
  • Develop ways to better communication area specific Fg inoculum levels. e. are you in an Fg hot spot?  Fast and complete forecasts for weather during flowering


Thank you to the producer co-operators, farming near Duchess, Lomond, Rainier, Camangay, Picture Butte, Bow Island and Burdette, who donated their land, equipment, time and knowledge to this project. Also, a special thanks to Drs. Kelly Turkington (AAFC Lacombe), Ron Howard (AARD Brooks), and Mike Harding (AARD Brooks) for pathology support. This work is supported by the Pest Management Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pesticide Risk Reduction Program (

Project Videos

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