Reappearance of Wheat Fungus in Kansas After Decades Could Pose Trade Threat
The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) has announced that the fungus, wheat flag smut, has reappeared in the state, which is urging farmers to take precautions against fungi.
The fungus is harmless to humans and animals, but does cause a decline in yield. An even more pressing concern is that it could pose a disruption to trade, as 15 countries have restrictions in place against imports that might be infected with wheat flag smut, according to Jeff Vogel, plant protection and weed control program manager with the KDA.
Not all 15 countries are buyers of U.S. wheat, but the countries that are buyers could decide to ban all U.S. Midwestern wheat because of the findings.
The KDA is urging farmers to use varieties of wheat that are more resistant to fungi and to treat their winter wheat seeds prior to planting with fungicides. The department is also suggesting farmers delay planting as the fungus thrives in moist, warm soil, and that farmers rotate fields with crops that aren’t susceptible to wheat flag smut, such as sorghum, corn, and soybeans.
The fungus was first discovered in Kansas in the 1930s, but hasn’t been detected since the KDA began surveying for a variety of grain diseases in the 1970s. The reason behind the fungus’ reappearance this year is still unknown.