Diseases and insect pests reduce wheat yields in Kansas almost every year. Genetic resistance to diseases and insect pests is usually the most effective, economical, and environmentally sound method of control. Evaluate which diseases and insects are important for your region. The importance of any disease or insect pest depends on its potential to cause yield loss and how often it reaches damaging levels within a given region of the state. In western Kansas, wheat streak mosaic, leaf rust and stripe rust are among the most damaging and common diseases and these diseases should be top priorities when selecting wheat varieties for that region. In eastern and central Kansas, the environment is often more conducive for disease development, and additional factors should be considered when selecting a variety. Important diseases to consider in these regions of Kansas include: soilborne mosaic, wheat spindle streak mosaic, barley yellow dwarf, leaf rust, stripe rust, tan spot, and Septoria tritici blotch.
Sorting through all the information available about wheat varieties can be a complex process. Wheat varieties often have one or more weaknesses that are not
adequately addressed by genetic resistance. When resistance is not available, it may be possible to minimize the risk of severe yield losses with other management options. For example, foliar fungicides could be used to manage leaf rust when genetic resistance is
lacking in an otherwise desirable variety. Pursuing this management option, however, may increase the input costs required to produce the crop if leaf rust emerges
as a problem. This approach will be less effective for viral diseases, including soilborne mosaic, wheat streak mosaic, and barley yellow dwarf, because these diseases are difficult to control with other cultural practices.
By Ryan Flaming, County Extension Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources