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No matter what you plant, make sure to start with clean seed and read unbiased data.

September 26, 2019

3 Min Read
Close-up of wheat blowing in the field under a blue sky
GET A GOOD START: The key to getting to a good start on your small grains is to select lines with good resistance to small grain diseases.

As you make decisions for your winter small grains, now is the time to take actions to enhance your small grain growth, from establishment to harvest, of wheat, barley, rye or even oats.

One thing to pay special attention to is the planting date for your region. Alyssa Collins, Penn State Extension educator, says this is important not only for good prewinter establishment, but also to avoid important pests and diseases. 

In the upper Mid-Atlantic, for instance, farmers are warned to not plant barley or wheat too early as it can leave crops vulnerable to Hessian fly as well as aphid feeding. By waiting until the Hessian fly-free date, farmers can reduce aphid pressure since the flies become less active as the weather cools. 

Collins says this not only reduces the amount of damage from feeding, but also the prevalence of barley yellow dwarf virus since Hessian fly is a vector for the disease. 

Here are five other tips to help you stack the deck against small grain killers and ensure you get a good harvest this season:

 ensure you start your small grain season right and that you get a good harvest:

1. Ask about genetic resistance. Be sure to ask your dealer about lines with genetic resistance to powdery mildew, scab and other diseases.

This should be your first step in the fight against small grain diseases. It is also critical to managing head scab, as the best way to get satisfactory control of scab and toxin is to combine the use of a resistant to moderately resistant variety with proper fungicide application.

2. Read unbiased data. So, how do you find out this information apart from a seed company? Visit the small grain variety trials reports that make the most sense for your area. In Pennsylvania, start with the Penn State Winter Wheat and Barley Variety Trials data. This will help you get insights on yield and quality, but also more information about diseases.

In northern Pennsylvania, check out the trials done by Cornell or in Ontario.

If your climate is more like the Mid-Atlantic, browse the material from Maryland and Virginia.

3. Get certified seed. Be sure that the seed you select is clean, undamaged and certified.

If you choose to use stored seed, avoid seed lots that have not been thoroughly cleaned and those from fields with a history of glume blotch, smut or scab.

Low test weights, discoloration and poor germination rates are also cause for concern.

4. Treat saved seed. If you are using saved seed, you might want to apply some fungicide to it.

These treatments do a good job against pathogens that can be carried on or in the seed, such as bunts and smuts, glume blotch, and scab. Treatments are also effective at reducing stand and yield loss from seed rots and early season diseases like those caused by Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. This can be especially important if planting is delayed and the seed bed is cool and wet.

5. Diversify treatments. Fungicides will not provide control of bacterial diseases or viruses.

Seed treatments will also not protect your wheat and barley from head scab that occurs in spring; it only provides protection for the damping-off that may occur at germination as the result of planting some scabby seed.

Seed treatment will also not make up for bin-run seed quality issues, although it may help a bit.

It is best to select multiple seed treatments to provide activity against the range of pathogens as well as add protection from insects.

Source: Penn State Extension, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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