Dryland Foot Rot

Overall we have a pretty good looking wheat crop.  In some fields we have some bleached heads showing up.  In a few cases this is due to wheat stem maggot, but mostly it appears to be dryland foot rot.  This isn’t very serious in most fields, just its something to be aware of.

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Bleached heads from dryland foot rot.

Dryland foot rot is caused by the Fusarium fungus.  It infects the crown of the plants and is worsened in times of stress including drought or too much water, extreme heat or cold, or excessive nitrogen.  It’s usually pretty easy to ID dryland foot rot because the infected tiller will pull off the plant easily and there is frequently pink or purple discoloration under the leaf sheaths near the crown.

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Two tillers infected with dryland foot rot.  The leaf sheaths are pulled off of the tiller on top to reveal pink discoloration.

The fungus kills the tiller and the grains in the head will shrivel up because they are no longer developing.  They will more than likely blow out the back of the combine.  This publication gives some more details on the disease cycle of dryland foot rot.

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Grains from healthy tillers on the right, grains from tillers infected with dryland foot rot on the left.

The best ways to avoid dryland foot rot are to use clean seed, crop rotation, and proper N rates.

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