North Dakota small grain farmers once again saw yields and quality undercut by fusarium head blight, more commonly referred to as scab. This past year, scab reduced the total value of three common crops in the state by $162 million, according to researchers at North Dakota State University.
The disease has plagued spring wheat, durum and barley crops for more than a decade. Last year's scab loss is second only to 1997 in terms of total value losses for farmers. Since 1993, direct losses to farmers totaled almost $1.5 billion, hitting wheat farmers the hardest (about 50 percent of total scab losses). NDSU researchers attributed this year's blight to heavy June rains, which were particularly hard on April plantings because of the growth stage of those plantings at the time. Later plantings were reportedly harvested in good shape.
Given the economic losses, the breeding program at NDSU has been working on scab-resistant strains of small grains.
—Ronald A. Wirtz