Fusarium Head Blight is considered by many to be the worst fungal disease for cereal crops.

The disease is mainly driven by warm humid conditions, the last time we saw a major outbreak in the Prairies was back in 2016.

Dr Paul Bullock is a senior scholar and former professor at the University of Manitoba.

He says the best line of defense when it comes to fusarium is growing a variety that has a good level of resistance.

"When the disease is very severe though, the more resistant variety probably will not get as much damage, but it can still be significant, and that's where we're trying to help. "

Farmers make a decision on a fungicide application and that application has to happen, right around the time of flowering when the cereal is at anthesis. The problem is that when you're going to apply that fungicide, there are no visible signs of fusarium. 

"You could be walking into that field and you won't see it for three weeks. Then in three weeks time, you could be looking at a severe amount of fusarium or you could be looking at none at all. "

Bullock says a new risk mapping tool has been developed that will give producers a better idea of how to determine the potential for fusarium in your crop.

"So you look at the weather conditions that have happened prior to anthesis to try and see how favorable it has been for the disease to develop. Is it worthwhile for me to spray a fungicide? if you've got no disease coming, why apply a fungicide? But you know, how do you know that? So that's where this new tool comes in to try to manage the disease. "

He says a key in determining the risk for your area is checking the fusarium head blight risk maps however, the information they've been using to compile the maps is based on a U.S. model but work has been done to create a new Prairie-based risk model making the maps more effective.

"The new tool was developed right from scratch with plot studies that were done in Western Canada. Where we had plots set out, and different crops growing. Look at those fusarium conditions, and monitor the weather, as the weather station is right there alongside of the plots to really get good relationships between weather and disease as it occurs in the varieties grown in Western Canada and under the conditions that we have in Western Canada."

He points out that with this new method, they can get more accurate predictions of fusarium risk based on these new models that have been developed here in the Prairies. 

"So this new tool takes those models it puts them into a map form that's very easy to use and so that you can very quickly have a look, and it's the same models being used across all three provinces. So no more of this where it's showing high in Saskatchewan on the same day that it's showing low in Manitoba. "

Bullock says these are going to help provide what we think will be a more accurate and more consistent assessment of the risk for producers. 

The new Fusarium Head Blight risk mapping tool is ready to go and is expected to roll out for the 2024 growing season once they determine how to go about rolling it out simultaneously across all three prairie provinces.