Va. officials confirm case of stripe rust in wheat field

Managing Editor

CAPEVILLE, Va. (April 11, 2017) — With the early confirmation of stripe rust in wheat on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, plant disease experts are urging farmers in the region to step up their respective scouting regimes, especially on susceptible varieties.
The disease, exhibited by bright orange spores on the wheat plant leaves, was a big issue last year and now found in a commercial field in Northampton County on March 30, according to Dr. Steve Rideout, Virginia Tech Extension plant pathologist and director of the Eastern Shore Research and Education Center in Painter, Va.
Last year he said the disease was first confirmed on April 11, which was already earlier than normal.
“This is earlier than we’ve ever seen it in Virginia to my knowledge,” Rideout of the disease showing up this year. “We’re a good two weeks ahead of last year.”
Rideout said the mild winter likely plays a big role in the early presence, allowing the disease to overwinter farther north and have shorter to travel to get to Virginia.
He added the disease hasn’t been confirmed in Virginia’s Tidewater area which is typically in its path as the weather patterns move it up the East Coast. The disease was found along the southern North Carolina border in early March.
“It’s a little strange and the distribution up the coast usually plods its way north,” Rideout said. “This is almost like a jump.”
In Virginia, at the southern end of Northampton County, stripe rust was found on the wheat variety named Shirley. It was developed through Virginia Tech’s small grains breeding program and prized for it’s resistance to powdery mildew and leaf and stem rust but is very susceptible to stripe rust.
While the disease was hard on Shirley and other susceptible varieties, resistant varieties performed well against it, and Extension experts are telling growers to determine which of their planted varieties are susceptible and scout those fields diligently.
“Given the growth stage of wheat and forecasted weather, there is a chance that we may see the disease in parts of (Maryland and Delaware) on susceptible varieties prior to flag leaf,” Nathan Klecewski, University of Delaware Extension plant pathologist wrote in a recent post on his Field Crops Management blog. “If you planted a variety susceptible to stripe rust you should consider a fungicide application if disease is detected nearby.”
Rideout said the orange spores of the disease are much brighter than that of leaf rust.
“I’m really urging people to look,” he said. “If you don’t protect it and we continue to get favorable weather, it could really do a lot of damage.”