Fungicides Prevent Wheat Losses in the Pacific Northwest – Organic Growers Can Only Pray

Cool, wet weather causes explosions of the stripe rust fungus in wheat fields of the Pacific Northwest. Two articles by Matthew Weaver explain how most growers applied fungicides to prevent yield loss in 2011 while organic growers could only hope that they would not be hit by the disease.

From “Researchers say vigilance against stripe rust a must”:

“Even though there’s more stripe rust in Pacific Northwest wheat fields this year, researchers say the outlook is good -— as long as farmers spray their fields and keep an eye on them.”

“…most growers in Oregon are already on their second application of fungicide and many will make a third application, which is extremely unusual.”

“In most fields, the stripe rust is under control if sprayed. Very few fields haven’t been sprayed, Chen said. Farmers who haven’t should compare the cost of spraying to the potential for yield losses if they don’t, Chen [research plant pathologist with USDA’s ARS] said. ‘It can not only cause a problem in their fields, but also to their neighbors and potentially to the whole region,’ he said, noting rust spores can be carried by the wind.”

From “Rust resistance key to organic wheat survival”:

“Organic wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest are concerned about stripe rust, an epidemic for which they have few treatment options. … Oregon State University wheat breader Mike Flowers said most organic growers were hit by the stripe rust ‘pretty hard’ but losses vary depending on the variety of wheat they grew. … Corvallis, Ore., farmer Clinton Lindsey, farm manager of A2R Farms, said one of his best red wheat fields was ‘completely devastated’ by the rust.”

“There aren’t many options available to organic producers, researchers and farmers say. ‘Pray or not pray,’ said Owen Jorgensen, a Coulee City, Wash., farmer who is on the northern edge of the stripe rust region.” 

Author: Matthew Weaver
Titles:”Researchers say vigilance against stripe rust a must” 27 May, 2011 and “Rust resistance key to organic wheat survival” 8 July, 2011
Publication: Capitol Press

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