Multiple diseases affect Kansas wheat production every year. In 2010, diseases caused a loss of 13.6 percent or 58.1 million bushels valued at more than $290 million.
Timely Information Aids Decision-Making for Wheat Producers
In 2009, Justin Schrag saw firsthand what stripe rust could do to a wheat crop when the disease hit the acreage he farms with his dad in central Kansas. So, when a K-State Research and Extension webinar about the disease was advertised, he was interested, not only from the producer standpoint, but also for his crop insurance and agricultural loan clients.
“I attended the webinar, sitting right here in my office,” Schrag said. “I had to leave midway through and was able to go online and view the results later. Many of my clients were in the field and unable to attend, but I was able to pass the information and links onto them, too.”
K-State Research and Extension crop specialist Brian Olson, plant pathologist Erick De Wolf, and agronomist Jim Shroyer produced the webinar to explain that a new strain of stripe rust was emerging in Texas. This new strain was able to overcome the disease resistance in many popular cultivars, making many acres susceptible to the disease.
The webinar also provided a step-by-step decision-making tool to help farmers determine whether it was worthwhile to spray their crops, from both financial and environmental standpoints.
Based on the knowledge gained through the webinar, the Schrag family decided not to spray because it did not appear to be agronomically justified; however, some of Schrag’s customers did spray and saw the benefit. The decisions were based on the data and tools created by K-State Research and Extension, and that decision-making process was repeated throughout the state.
“We tried to help farmers make an informed decision about whether or not to spray,” Olson said. “Farmers became very aware of the potential problem and started scouting their wheat acres. As they started seeing the stripe rust move in, they had the information available to decide whether they wanted to spray or not.”
Olson said K-State prepared for the disease because of the nationwide extension system and De Wolf ’s work with colleagues in Texas.
“With the rust, it is extremely important to have a good system, where we have other university research and extension people communicating what is going on,” Olson said.
In the end, stripe rust caused more than 10 percent total yield loss for the Kansas wheat crop. Thanks to the efforts of Olson, De Wolf, and their team, Kansas farmers were prepared long before the disease appeared here.
“We used the existing infrastructure to distribute information about the emerging stripe rust problem,” De Wolf said. “Through the e-newsletter, webinar, specific programs and field days, we made growers aware of potential risks in a timely way so they could respond or make plans ahead of time.”
According to Schrag, the efforts were appreciated.
“With the improvement in seed technology and increased value in Kansas crops recently, the investment in producer training and consultant training is probably worth more today than it ever has been,” said Schrag.
“I work with many producers, and they all will say, ‘It’s contributing to make my bottom line stronger and more stable, and I’m becoming more productive thanks to the contributions by K-State Research and Extension.”