Dr. Chen, USDA-ARS Research Plant Pathologist in Pullman, and the Oregon State University Variety Testing and Plant Pathology Team (Mike Flowers, Larry Lutcher, Christina Hagerty and Chris Mundt) each released disease updates (Dr. Chen’s report and the Plant Pathology’s report) during the past week.
Using six different models based on air temperature, Dr. Chen is predicting this year’s stripe rust epidemic will be more severe than his first prediction in January. Although air temperature during several periods in December and January was below the 5°F threshold for survival of the stripe rust fungus in plants, most of the wheat-growing area in eastern Washington had a blanket of snow cover that protected both winter wheat plants and the fungus, allowing both to survive. Consequently, Dr. Chen is now predicting an epidemic with potential yield loss of 32% on highly susceptible varieties, compared to 6% in his January forecast. Dr. Chen also reported finding actively sporulating stripe rust pustules during the week of March 6 in Walla Walla County where the wheat has greened-up and started growing. Fields farther to the north in Adams and Lincoln Counties were either still under snow or, where snow was gone, had dead spots where rust infection was severe last fall, or fall-infected leaves were dead. It is possible that the stripe rust fungus is still alive in these plants and may begin to sporulate once the plants begin growing again. These observations were confirmed in the OSU report, and stripe rust was observed on several varieties at two variety testing locations (Lexington, OR and Walla Walla, WA) and appears to be widespread in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.
Going forward, it will be important to scout all winter wheat fields and consider using a fungicide with herbicide application if the variety is moderately susceptible or susceptible (rating of 5 to 9) or active stripe rust is found on 2-5% of the plants in a field. Continue to monitor fields throughout the spring, especially as the end of fungicide effectiveness nears (3 to 5 weeks, depending on the fungicide). For spring wheat, plant the most resistant variety available, preferably those rated 1 to 4.