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41087273•09/09/11 41031494•09/09/11


41031491•09/09/11


PRAIRIE POST - Friday, September 9, 2011 - 17 Stripe rust becoming more common in southern Alberta


BY JAMIE WOODFORD — ppost@prairiepost.com


Across southern Alberta wheat fields


are turning a not so flattering shade of orange. Rust orange to be exact, but that’s just the cosmetic effect from a normally sporadic plant disease that has quickly become a common occurrence. Stripe rust is proving to be more and


more of a menace and putting grain yields at risk. The disease has made an annual appearance for the last six years, and it’s starting to show up earlier in the season. Byron Puchalski, plant pathologist at the Lethbridge Research Centre, said he usually sees rust at the end of June, but this year he noticed it mid-May. “I’m seeing it in levels that I have


never seen it before,” he said. “I’ve seen fields that are completely orange in May, so there is a lot of annoculum building up very early.” Puchalski said he thinks stripe rust has survived, for the first time, over the winter leading to the early appearance of the disease.


A historically cold temperature disease, stripe rust usually wears off at above 25 C, but with evenings dipping between 12 C and 15 C, southern Alberta now has an ideal climate for rust to germinate its spores. Rust spores travel in the wind jumping


from field to field usually starting in Mexico and working its way up north to Canada. Within 11 days from when spores drop


to when it germinates, striping will being to appear on the leaves of wheat crops. The rust infects the leaves of wheat.


The lower, juvenile leaves don’t affect the plant too much, but the upper adult leaf closest to the head does as it is what gives the head its filling — or kernels. “This (upper leaf) is going to give 60 per cent of the head filling ... but if you lose this leaf, then you’re filling doesn’t happen as well so you have much smaller kernels,” said Puchalski. “You’ll still have the same number, they’re just smaller and that affects your yield.” A severely infected crop could lose as


much as 30 per cent of its yield potential. “That’s like losing the province of


Record funding set to assist producers with unseeded acres


COURTESY SASKATCHEWAN AGRICULTURE


The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance


Corporation (SCIC) has provided a record $329 million to assist producers with land they were unable to seed due to excess moisture in 2011. This record funding was provided for 13,500 claims under the Unseeded Acreage (USA) Benefit,which was increased from $50 to $70 per eligible acre in 2011. “For the second consecutive year,


excess moisture prevented many producers from seeding their land,” Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud said. “I am pleased the Crop Insurance Program is providing this record level of support to help producers address these challenges. I’m also very pleased that these claims have been processed by our Crop Insurance employees and the cheques delivered to farmers in such a timely manner.” Over the past two years, Crop Insurance has provided a record


$551 million to producers through the USA Benefit. The 2011 Excess Moisture Program (EMP),which was announced in August, provides an additional $30 per eligible acre for land that was too wet to seed or was seeded and then flooded out. All Saskatchewan producers are eligible for the EMP. SCIC is administering the program and will continue to process EMP claims as quickly as possible. The deadline to apply is Sept. 30. More than $600 million has been made


available under the EMP in 2010 and 2011 to help producers affected by excess moisture. Over the last four years, the


Government of Saskatchewan has worked to improve the Crop Insurance Program, including providing the four largest budgets and average coverage levels in the program’s history. For further information or to register


a Crop Insurance or EMP claim, producers can contact their local Crop Insurance office or phone 1-888-935-0000.


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Alberta in wheat production if it’s global,” Puchalski said. “So the economic losses, because wheat is such a large crop ... means that there are millions and millions and millions of dollars lost because its millions and millions and millions of acres.” Interestingly enough, a plant knows


when it’s been infected. “If something lands on it, it realizes


it’s alien and it kills a whole pile of cells around the area and kind of creates this zone where it can’t live in anymore,” Puchalski explained. “The plant tries to kill off the tissue on the side of the stripe and you get this broad area in which there is no spores ... They know within 30 or 40 minutes that they’ve been hit ... and start turning on defence pathways within minutes of being hit with it.” However, plant defence is not


resistance, said Puchalski, “The problem with resistance is that the pathogen can also change ... plant defence is a little more stable because it’s not specific to any race.” This year’s rust doesn’t seem to stick around for long.


“The other rust is a lot more stable,


but this one picks up, blows, lands on somebody else’s field and the whole process starts over again,” he said. So what can farmers do to prevent stripe rust from obliterating their crops? Genetic resistant varieties and fungicide, said Puchalski, adding holding off on irrigation is another good idea. “As a farmer, the best thing you can do is select varieties which show some level of resistance to stripe rust, particularly if you’re in southern Alberta. Genetic resistance is your best hope,” he said. Puchalski advised to only use fungicide when the surface of a plant leaf is five per cent infected. He said some farmers will see a lot of striping on the lower leaves, panic and start spraying with fungicide,which may not be necessary. “You still see some striping on the upper adult leaves, but the development isn’t happening,” he noted. In the meantime,Agriculture Canada has made stripe rust a priority and researchers are working on developing more resistant wheat varieties.


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