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The Effect of Previous Crop Residues and Tillage on Fusarium Head Blight of Wheat

    Authors and Affiliations
    • R. Dill-Macky , Assistant Professor
    • R. K. Jones , Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108

      Published Online:

      Effects of previous crop residues and tillage practices on Fusarium head blight (FHB) of wheat were examined. Fusarium head blight was monitored in plots of the FHB-susceptible spring wheat cultivar Norm following crops of corn, wheat, and soybeans in 1995, 1996, and 1997. Moldboard plow, chisel plow, and no-till treatments were imposed perpendicular to crop strips to establish a range of residue levels in each of the previous crop residues. Fusarium head blight incidence and severity were greatest when wheat followed corn and least when wheat followed soybeans. Incidence and severity were lower in moldboard plowed plots than in either chisel plowed or no-till plots, although differences among chisel plow and no-till treatments were not apparent. Yields of wheat were approximately 15% lower in plots where wheat followed corn or wheat than in wheat following soybeans and were 10% greater in moldboard plowed plots than in either chisel plowed or no-till treatments. The deoxynivalenol (DON) content of harvested grain was significantly correlated with FHB incidence and severity. The DON level in wheat following soybeans, averaged across tillage treatments, was 25% lower than in wheat following wheat and 50% of the level in wheat following corn. These findings suggest that changes in regional tillage practices, principally the move toward conservation tillage and reduced-till systems, contributed to the recent FHB epidemics in the Upper Midwest. Because differences in the type and quantity of crop residues in small plots affected disease development, it is likely that local sources of inoculum, such as those within a grower's field, contribute directly to the inoculum load and disease potential. The implication of these findings is that selection of cultural practices aimed to reduce inoculum-borne residues will assist in the control of FHB.