Wheat crops hit by increase in fungal blight

A FUNGAL disease which inflicts yield and quality losses in crops is on the increase.

Farmers in Yorkshire are already seeing evidence of fusarium head blight in winter wheat, which is about to be harvested.

The fungal disease – which is linked to rainfall when the crop is flowering – is at its highest level in recent years, according to the Home Grown Cereals Authority, which carries out rolling studies.

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Many fusarium species produce mycotoxins, fungal chemicals that are harmful to animals, and which could cause affected crops to be rejected by buyers of milling and biscuit wheat.

Senior research manager Simon Oxley said: “We know from observations throughout UK, there is more fusarium head blight, and we are predominantly seeing it in winter wheat. This is probably the most we have seen for a number of years.

“A lot of crops will be at a high risk and growers would be advised to have their wheat tested for mycotoxins.”

There may be good news as other fungi on the wheat are competing with the fusarium, he said. The full impact of the blight, which infects the head and causes kernels to shrivel up and become chalky white, would only be known once the harvest was in.