Viral Wheat Disease Lands One-two Punch

June 2, 2017

Late April’s unexpectedly destructive blizzard is the obvious villain when it comes to the uncertain health of the western Kansas wheat crop, but it’s not the only one.

A severe infestation of wheat streak mosaic also has tongues wagging and tempers flaring across the region.

“It’s a problem across the whole western third of Kansas, and it hasn’t been limited to just patches of volunteer wheat,” said Erick DeWolf, K-State extension plant pathologist. “This year we are seeing entire fields and even quarter-sections consumed by the virus.”

“The patches of wheat streak mosaic are continuing to expand,” he added. “They are still spreading.”

Unlike fungal diseases, which can be controlled with fungicide, there’s no effective treatment for the virus, which causes yellow streaks to appear on leaves in a mosaic pattern. It can reduce yields dramatically depending on the timing of the infestation and is linked with other viral diseases like high plains virus and barley yellow dwarf virus that also chip away at the crop’s potential.

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