Wheat diseases can cause major yield and quality losses. While some disease outbreaks may be hard to predict, others have somewhat consistent determinants.
Fusarium head blight, a wheat disease caused by a fungus, is associated with specific weather patterns during the critical flowering period, says Paul Esker, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. The disease is found mostly in wheat production areas east of the Rock Mountains.
By researching the disease and the specific weather patterns, predictions can be made about possible outbreaks the wheat disease. These predictions are displayed online with the Fusarium Head Blight Risk Assessment Tool.
Esker says while the tool combines several sound predictive elements, the tool is not 100% accurate. "Overall, the risk model is about 80% accurate because the weather data is generated only at existing weather stations,” he says.
That leaves room for error, since not all fields are located closely to weather stations. "It is important to consider this as a tool,” he says, "and still go look at the fields.”
Esker says the research behind the tool is ongoing and as the methods and tools used in making the predictions, the accuracy will also improve.
The assessment tool is a collaboration between crop and weather specialists at Penn State University, Ohio State University, Kansas State University, Purdue University, North Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University.