Department of Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster 44691
Rain splash dispersal of Gibberella zeae, causal agent of Fusarium head blight of wheat, was investigated in field studies in Ohio between 2001 and 2003. Samplers placed at 0, 30, and 100 cm above the soil surface were used to collect rain splash in wheat fields with maize residue on the surface and fields with G. zeae-infested maize kernels. Rain splash was collected during separate rain episodes throughout the wheat-growing seasons. Aliquots of splashed rain were transferred to petri dishes containing Komada's selective medium, and G. zeae was identified based on colony and spore morphology. Dispersed spores were measured in CFU/ml. Intensity of splashed rain was highest at 100 cm and ranged from 0.2 to 10.2 mm h-1, depending on incident rain intensity and sampler height. Spores were recovered from splash samples at all heights in both locations for all sampled rain events. Both macroconidia and ascospores were found based on microscopic examination of random samples of splashed rain. Spore density and spore flux density per rain episode ranged from 0.4 to 40.9 CFU cm-2 and 0.4 to 84.8 CFU cm-2 h-1, respectively. Spore flux density was higher in fields with G. zeae-infested maize kernels than in fields with maize debris, and generally was higher at 0 and 30 cm than at 100 cm at both locations. However, on average, spore flux density was only 30% lower at 100 cm (height of wheat spikes) than at the other heights. The log of spore flux density was linearly related to the log of splashed rain intensity and the log of incident rain intensity. The regression slopes were not significantly affected by year, location, height, and their interactions, but the intercepts were significantly affected by both sampler height and location. Thus, our results show that spores of G. zeae were consistently splash dispersed to spike heights within wheat canopies, and splashed rain intensity and spore flux density could be predicted based on incident rain intensity in order to estimate inoculum dispersal within the wheat canopy.