Nebraska wheat looked good going into winter; some fields have virus pressure
Nebraska wheat conditions were high going into winter. However, disease and weather conditions can cause wheat to winterkill, leading to poor stands and lower yields. Farmers should plan to scout their fields carefully in the spring.
A mild fall and ample moisture at planting allowed winter wheat in the Panhandle to establish with good stands. Some areas near Ogallala and Grant suffered from dry conditions later in the planting season and wheat was slow to emerge.
Recent snowfall has eased concerns about dry soil conditions that persisted late into November. As of Jan. 23, the winter wheat appeared to be wintering well. However, a lot can change before spring, and winterkill is still a possibility.
While the mild fall promoted wheat establishment, it also favored survival of wheat curl mites that serve as vectors for viruses.
Wheat streak mosaic, wheat mosaic (High Plains), and Triticum mosaic viruses are spread to wheat by infected mites. Virus risk to new-crop wheat depends on the mites’ ability to find alternate “green bridge” hosts to survive from wheat harvest into the fall, when they will move to the new crop.
The highest-risk green bridge host for the mite is volunteer wheat emerging before wheat harvest, usually as the result of a pre-harvest hail event. However, pre-harvest emerging volunteer wheat can occasionally be found in summer crops, such as sunflower or proso millet. Other potential, but less risky, summer hosts include corn, foxtail millet or summer annual grass weeds such as green foxtail and barnyardgrass.
Wheat samples collected from fields showing virus symptoms (yellowing and stunting) in November 2016 from the Nebraska Panhandle tested positive for wheat viruses that have potential to significantly reduce yields in hardest-hit fields.
Fields sampled north of Chappell, where an extensive pre-harvest hail storm occurred, had typical virus symptoms of general yellowing and stunting and tested positive for at least one virus. In the area west of Hemingford in the northern Panhandle, four of seven fields tested positive for wheat streak mosaic virus or wheat mosaic virus, but at a much lower incidence (percentage of samples testing positive) than in the southern Panhandle.
The sooner after fall emergence that winter wheat is infected, the greater the impact of viruses on yield. Significant yield reduction or total loss can result if wheat is infected early and displays severe symptoms in the fall. The yield impact on wheat infected in late fall or in the spring will be much less.
In the spring growers should actively scout their wheat fields. Termination of the wheat crop should be considered in severely impacted fields with low or no yield potential.
Prior to termination, growers should work with their crop insurance representative to make sure proper documentation is completed. The field could then be either fallowed or planted to another crop assuming no herbicide crop rotation restrictions exist.
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