St. Paul, Minn. (November 1, 1997)— More than 140 scientists from around the world will meet at the Sheraton Midway Hotel in St. Paul, Minnesota, November 10-13, for the First National Fusarium Head Blight Forum. Scab, as this fungal disease is commonly called, is responsible for an increasing annual devastation of wheat and barley crops across the United States and Canada. During 1996, scab epidemics occurred in Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, and Ontario. Ohio wheat producers lost an estimated $100 million due to reduced yields, lower prices received for remaining bushels and the added cost of grain cleaning. Wheat producers in Illinois and Indiana estimated losses at about $38 million, while Michigan reported losses of $56 million.
"Damage from head scab is multifold," according to Roger Jones, plant pathologist, at the University of Minnesota. "We see a reduction in yield, discolored, shriveled 'tombstone' kernels, contamination with mycotoxins (toxins produced by fungi which affect people and animals), and a reduction in seed quality. The disease also reduces test weight and lowers market grade."
In the December issue of Plant Disease (in press), an international journal of applied plant pathology, Jones and colleagues Marcia McMullen, North Dakota State University, and Dale Gallenberg, South Dakota State University, detail the specifics of the scab epidemics and world-wide cooperative efforts to develop effective management techniques for limiting disease losses and mycotoxin formation, including breeding for resistance, crop rotation, and the development of biological control agents.
Weather plays an important role in the development of scab; however, disease susceptible grain cultivars, higher proportions of minimum tillage, high percentages of cultivated acres planted to susceptible host crops, and short rotation intervals between crops compound the problem. Scientists, including plant pathologists, agronomists, and plant breeders, attending this meeting hope to share research results and reinforce cooperative efforts to reduce the damage from this disease. Our future food and some beverage supplies could be severely limited by it.
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