University of Maryland Extension

Wheat Variety Selections--An Important Factor for Managing Head Blight

Andrew Kness
Image of a wheat field

Compared to the 2018 wheat crop, 2019 was a much better year for Fusarium head blight (FHB, also known as head scab). Growing quality wheat in Maryland starts with proper variety selection. As you look ahead to the 2020 wheat crop, select wheat varieties that have good FHB ratings. There are no varieties with complete resistance to head scab; only varying degrees of susceptibility. Nevertheless, planting a somewhat resistant variety will go a long way in managing FHB and keeping vomitoxin levels (DON) lower in your grain compared to a susceptible variety.

To aid in your selection of wheat varieties, the University of Maryland screens several wheat varieties for their resistance to Fusarium graminearim, the causal agent of FHB. The results from the 2019 trials can be found here.

Additional considerations for FHB management include:

  • Planting behind soybeans rather than corn or other small grains. The FHB pathogen survives on residue of corn, wheat, barley, oats, and other grasses; however, it does not persist on soybean residue.
  • If planting into corn residue, consider tillage if it is an option for your farm. Sizing and burying corn residue will accelerate its decomposition and reduce the FHB pathogen survival.
  • Fungicides in spring 2020. Please note that fall fungicide applications do not have any effect on managing FHB. More information will be covered concerning fungicide recommendations in the spring, or read this article from earlier this year.
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