Wheat fields will soon be at the anthesis stage (Feekes 10.51, “flowering”) in Kentucky. Anthesis is a critical time, as wheat becomes susceptible to infection by Fusarium graminearum, the causal agent of Fusarium head blight (FHB; also known as scab).
This disease can cause reduced grain yield, test weight, and quality. In addition, the fungus can produce toxins that will contaminate grain, such as deoxynivalenol (DON; also known as vomitoxin). Harvested grain with high levels of DON may be discounted or outright rejected at the elevator.
To achieve the best management of FHB, different management practices must be implemented, such as planting wheat into fields that were previously cropped to soybean (rather than corn), planting wheat varieties with moderate to high levels of resistance to FHB, and applying foliar fungicides at the proper timing.
Of these different management practices, the application of foliar fungicides is the only one that can be done during the growing season and is the main focus of this article.
Multiple fungicides are registered for use on wheat, but only a few have efficacy in managing FHB. For 2022, two new fungicides are available, which are Prosaro Pro (Bayer CropScience) and Sphaerex (BASF Corp.).
These two new fungicides join a lineup of other fungicides available that have efficacy against FHB, which are Caramba (BASF Corp.), Miravis Ace (Syngenta Crop Protection), Prosaro (Bayer CropScience), Proline (Bayer CropScience), and multiple tradenames of products that contain tebuconazole as their solo active ingredient.
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Multi-year, multi-university research has shown that the best efficacy against FHB and the associated mycotoxin DON has been achieved with Caramba, Miravis Ace, Prosaro, and Proline compared to products that contain only tebuconazole.
Results from multi-year, multi-site research trials evaluating Prosaro Pro and Sphaerex are more limited but have shown that these products have efficacy in managing FHB and DON similar to Caramba, Miravis Ace, Prosaro, and Proline.
With the current global supply chain crisis limiting the availability of some agrochemical products, availability of different fungicide products also may be somewhat affected. Having the additional newly registered products available for 2022 may provide some relief of fungicide supply limitations.
The good news is that Kentucky wheat farmers now have several different fungicide product options that can be used along with growing the most resistant varieties available to manage FHB and DON.
Currently, the primary fungicide group that is being used to manage FHB and DON is the demethylation inhibitor group (DMI; also known as triazoles); however, Miravis Ace and Prosaro Pro also each contain an active ingredient from the succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI) group of fungicides (pydiflumetofen in Miravis Ace and fluopyram in Prosaro Pro).
Table 1 provides a breakdown of active ingredient rates for each product available for FHB and DON control in Kentucky.
Fungicide products that contain quinone outside inhibitor (QoI; strobilurin) active ingredients should not be applied for control of FHB, and most do not list FHB control or suppression on their label. In multiple university research trials, strobilurin fungicides have been shown to increase DON levels in grain compared to non-treated checks. Therefore, it is extremely important that only effective fungicides be applied for management of FHB
Proper fungicide application timing is critical in achieving the best efficacy. The best application timing is considered to be when plants are beginning to flower (early anthesis – Feekes growth stage 10.5.1), but some efficacy may still be achieved within a few days after Feekes 10.5.1.
In regard to fungicide application timing, it is important to always follow the label recommendations and consider the preharvest interval (PHI) requirements, which can vary from product to product.
FHB Prediction Tool
When making a decision on whether a fungicide application is needed, FHB risk should be assessed. A FHB Prediction Tool is available on-line. This risk is based on weather conducive for FHB and should be assessed for each field as they begin to develop heads in anticipation of flowering. It is important to continually monitor the FHB Risk Prediction Tool as more and more wheat fields get closer to the anthesis stage.
This article references the results of research supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under agreement no. 59-0206-0-183, which is a cooperative project with the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.