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Improved Understanding of the Impact of Fusarium SPP. on the Agronomic Performance of Soft Red Winter Wheat in Wisconsin


We propose to characterize and quantify the effect of the Fusarium spp. complex on soft red winter wheat grown in Wisconsin. <P>
Winter wheat is an economically important crop for Wisconsin growers and in 2008 became the #1 small grain grown in WI (acreage). At a value of $133 million, it provides significant income for WI producers (Source: USDA-NASS). Additionally, it is an excellent rotational crop with corn and soybean, as well as a source of feed and straw for the dairy industry. Therefore, improving the agronomic performance of winter wheat in Wisconsin is critical, especially to improve our understanding of how the Fusarium spp. complex impacts wheat yield under Wisconsin's different rotational systems. <P>
In the past two years (2008 and 2009), wheat production across the state has been affected by Fusarium head blight caused primarily by the fungus Fusarium graminearum. However, this is only one of multiple Fusarium spp. we hypothesize can impact wheat production.<P>
Much research has been done on the effects of Fusarium spp. on wheat grain yield and quality, however, little is known regarding this complex in terms of initial stand establishment. Additionally, recently published results and our own preliminary data suggest that Fusarium spp., in particular, F. graminearum, can infect soybean. Therefore, this project has broader impact beyond winter wheat for Wisconsin's producers as soybean is grown on ~1.6 millions acres with an annual economic value of $ 0.5 billion.<P>
The proposed research project includes both Research and Extension components. The objectives of this project are: <OL> <LI> Quantify the effect of crop rotation and management on Fusarium spp diversity and population dynamics;<LI> Quantify the effect of crop rotation and management on winter wheat yield and quality (deoxynivalenol, DON); <LI>Model the economic effect of Fusarium spp. on winter wheat production; <LI>Train and educate stakeholders on the role of Fusariam spp. on winter wheat production in Wisconsin.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Winter wheat is a critical crop for Wisconsin's dairy and row crop producers. Since 2000, winter wheat production in Wisconsin has increased by 250% and the value of production has increased 8-fold, providing an excellent source of income for Wisconsin producers (Source: USDA-NASS). In addition to income from grain, winter wheat also provides straw for use on the dairy and an excellent rotational crop for corn, soybean, and alfalfa production. We estimate that, when conditions for planting in the fall are most favorable, winter wheat acreage could reach approximately 500K acres, indicating there is still room for expansion. A key limiting factor for winter wheat production in Wisconsin is yield loss due to diseases. In both 2008 and 2009, winter wheat production was affected by Fusarium head blight (Fusarium graminearum), both in the field, and post-harvest when growers were docked at elevators for having levels of deoxynivalenol (DON), a mycotoxin, above the FDA mandated threshold level of 2 ppm. In 2009, we have also seen an increase in the number of questions about the risk of mycotoxin contamination in hail-affected corn (and soybean), indicating that our proposed research has broader implications beyond wheat. We propose an Interdisciplinary and Integrative Research and Extension project, which fits the mission of both PIs (Conley and Esker) programs. As State Specialists in the area of field crop production, we aim to provide information of highest relevance for our stakeholders in the state, while also provide new and novel research that has broader implications. Within Wisconsin, this research fits into areas of need for: (i) mechanisms of pest and pathogen resistance and safe and effective control, with minimum effects on environmental quality and human health, (ii) sustainable agricultural and forestry production and processing systems that provide improve food safety and security, environmental protection, economically viable communities, protection of public goods, and human well-being, and (iii) research and development related to agricultural processes with the potential to enhance the productivity and quality of livestock and food and bio-fuel crops in a sustainable manner. We need further research to understand both the short- and long-term risk associated with Fusarium spp., and how best to develop "Best Management Practices" to reduce this risk. Additionally, our proposed research links into a regional and national scale by providing up-to-date information specifically for Wisconsin that can be used to improve upon existing management tools like the Fusarium head blight prediction center (


APPROACH: Objectives 1 and 2. The proposed research will be conducted in the field trials that are established in the long-term rotation trial at the Arlington ARS. This trial was established in 2002 and contains 4 wheat rotations. The experimental design is a randomized complete block split-split plot design, replicated three times. The factors include the following components: (i) main plot = rotation; (ii) split plot = variety; (iii) split-split plot = management. In 2010, plots will be established no-till in late September/early October at a seeding rate of 3,700,000 seeds ha-1. The experimental unit will measure 3 x 13 m. Approximately 10 soil cores will be obtained from each main plot and assessed for Fusarium spp. diversity using standard methods for identification based on growth and morphological characteristics. A combination of soil sampling, standcounts, Fusarium rot assessments, foliar disease assessments, Fusarium head blight and myctoxin assessments, grain yield, and weather data will be collected for analyses to compare treatments. All analyses will be conducted using SAS software, and either the PROC MIXED or PROC GLIMMIX procedure, as appropriate, for single measures. Additionally, given that we expect to have a vector of responses for Fusarium spp. diversity (the dependent variable), multivariate methods, including MANOVA and clustering methods, will be used to examine how different cropping and management tactics affect species diversity. <P>
Objective 3: We propose to develop a three-stage hierarchical economic risk assessment model for Fusarium spp. In this approach, the factors that must be considered are: Level 1: pre-plant (bin run versus certified seed; use of fungicide seed treatments); Levels 2 and 3: use or non-use of foliar fungicides and the associated risk of Fusarium head blight and mycotoxin contamination. In the former (Level 1), we are able to work with existing seed treatment trial data in order to develop a baseline for the economic return on investment (i.e., does expected yield with seed treatment offset the cost of treatment and at what probability). To do this, we propose to use a Bayesian statistical analysis that examines economically how different active ingredients compare to the untreated control, taking into account the economic cost at the time of the trial (i.e., wheat prices during the trial period, input costs standardized by trial period, including seed treatments). <P>
Objective 4: Our proposed research in Objectives 1-3 have direct applications as part of training workshops, including, sessions on the identification and differentiation of Fusarium spp. and their effect on winter wheat, as well as working with participants on the economics of managing Fusarium spp. The graduate RA would be expected to actively participate in these workshops, including material development and teaching. In addition, results from the proposed research would be written up as fact sheets for stakeholders as an Extension publication(s). The graduate RA would also participate in field day workshops, including disease diagnostics and the identification of risk factors associated with Fusarium spp.

Esker, Paul
University of Wisconsin - Madison
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