Stripe rust is one of Alberta’s oldest barley diseases, and has made unwelcome appearances in farmers’ fields for 95 years. However, it has recently begun to pose a greater threat. Over the last decade, the fungus has shown up more often, and spread more aggressively, on Alberta farms.
Stripe rust can be identified by the bumpy yellow and orange stripes it forms on the plant. In addition to stealing nutrients from the plant, it destroys the area of the leaves responsible for photosynthesis, robbing the plant of energy. If the disease isn’t countered with a fungicide in time, the fungus can cause an infected plant to ripen prematurely. In some cases, a farmer may even find the kernel of a plant to be empty.
Yield losses vary according to the variety of barley and the time of year a field has been infected, but two-row lines are more resistant than six-row.
Experts stress that stripe rust is still fairly rare in Alberta, but they are working to develop new disease resistant strains to counter the threat. However, varieties that are resistant to the disease now may stop being resistant over time.
- If farmers see evidence of stripe rust early in the season, it is better to wait at least until the booting or heading stages—or even as late as the flowering stage—before spraying
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