Crop Diversification Centre South, S.S. #4, Brooks, AB, Canada T1R 1E6
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Centre, 107 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 0X2
Alberta Research Council, Bag 4000, Vegreville, AB, Canada T9C 1T4
Intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium [Host] Barkworth & D.R. Dewey) (syn. Agropyron intermedium [Host] Beauv.) is becoming an important forage grass species in Alberta, Canada. Severe losses in seed yield due to stem smut (Ustilago hypodytes [Schlecht.] Fr.) were noted in a 70-acre field near Warner, AB, in 1999. The crop had been established in 1993 and harvested for seed each year. Smut symptoms (5% incidence) were noted initially in 1997. Incidence, determined by counting the number of symptomatic stems, increased to 10% in 1998 and 50% in 1999. The symptoms usually appeared in the first week of June. Brown sori developed on infected stems, especially between the uppermost node and the leaf below the flag leaf, and gradually became black during the period of seed filling, which is characteristic of stem smut (1). Teliospores were smooth, spherical to oval, light to dark brown, and 4.5 to 5.0 × 5.0 to 6.8 μm in dimension, which is also consistent with previous descriptions of U. hypodytes. Infected stems occasionally flowered, but did not set seed, so seed yield losses were proportional to disease incidence. Plants infected with stem smut were often stunted. Tissues in the smutty stem often became sunken and stems became twisted and thinner than normal due to the propagation of sori in the stem over time. Stem smut has been reported on crested wheatgrass and slender wheatgrass in other parts of Canada (2) and on T. intermedium in the United States (3). This is the first report of stem smut affecting commercial grass seed production in Alberta, Canada. This disease could also have a significant impact on the seed production of intermediate wheatgrass elsewhere.
References: (1) G. W. Fischer. 1953. Manual of the North American Smut Fungi. Ronald Press, New York. (2) B. D. Gossen and D. Regnier. Can. Plant Dis. Surv. 71:88--89, 1991. (3) J. F. Karn and J. M. Krupinsky. Phytopathology 73:1152--1155, 1983.