Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus Shows Up in Montana
Farmers in Montana and Canada are already monitoring disease pressure in winter wheat, as reports of wheat streak mosaic virus have been confirmed. Symptoms in the fall are unusual, but weather conditions are a large factor. For the past two years, extended fall growth and hail damage have contributed to heavy pressure from the wheat curl mite, Aceria tosichella, which carries the virus.
Immunostrip tests from Montana State University will be available this spring.
Engineering students at Montana State University (MSU) are working on an immunostrip diagnostic tool to help farmers identify the disease. Made with 3D printers, the strip gives a quick reading if the virus is present. Mary Burrows, MSU associate professor, hopes the tool will be available this spring.
If the virus is suspected don’t apply Roundup herbicide, Burrows says, because that makes the mites go to the top of the plant and then they are carried downwind to neighboring fields.
Depending on severity of the disease, she recommends tillage or swathing to terminate damaged fields.
“With these small pockets showing up in winter wheat, I’d hold tight for now,” Burrows says, adding farmers should scout fields often at green up. “Don’t apply any additional nitrogen to the crop. Nitrogen will make the mites and virus grow and spread faster. In our research, any additional increase in yield is counteracted by the increase in disease.”
Spring wheat is even more susceptible to the virus, Burrows adds. “Make sure you don’t plant spring wheat downwind from diseased areas, pay attention to your green bridge and clean up the field.”
Wheat growers in North Dakota should also be on alert and scout their crops early, she says.
Suit Against Kraft Foods Continues
On Dec. 18, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) alleging Kraft Foods Group Inc. used its financial weight to lower wheat prices in 2011.
The complaint alleges Kraft Foods and then-parent company Mondelēz Global LLC held wheat futures positions in excess of speculative position limits established by the CFTC and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) without a valid exemption or a bona fide hedging need, and engaged in noncompetitive trades in CBOT wheat.
In summer 2011, Kraft and Mondelēz bought $90 million of December 2011 wheat futures. The CFTC complaint alleges Kraft and Mondelēz never intended to take delivery of the wheat, expecting the market would react to their long position by lowering cash prices and strengthening the spread between December 2011 and March 2012 futures. When the shifts occurred, the complaint says, Kraft and Mondelēz earned more than $5.4 million in profits.
Kraft did not respond to the ruling but is expected to continue to fight the case, which has yet to go to trial. For more information, visit www.cftc.gov.
Permits Required for GE Wheat Trials
As of Jan. 1, 2016, wheat researchers have to comply with stricter regulations on developing genetically engineered (GE) wheat. USDA–Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) now requires permits for field trials involving GE wheat, beginning with crops planted on or after the first of the year.
The decision requires a more stringent permit process, rather than the notification process employed in the past. It provides added protection that GE wheat will not persist in the environment after field trials are concluded, and the crop remains confined during the trials, as outlined in APHIS regulation 7 CFR part 340. In addition, when the field trial ends, no viable material shall remain, which is likely to volunteer (grow following the harvest of a crop) in subsequent seasons. Bringing GE wheat under permit enables APHIS to create and enforce permit conditions to minimize the likelihood regulated GE wheat will spread or persist in the environment. APHIS already requires permits for many GE organisms, including trees, perennial grasses and sorghum.
This action also strengthens U.S. exports by helping prevent unintended mixing with non-GE wheat.