AWC - Funded Research

Investigating crop management options to lessen the impact of fusarium head blight in wheat

Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) Wheat Cluster Project

AWC contribution: $98,263


The importance of using an integrated approach to lessen the FHB issue has been emphasized to prairie producers and industry over the last 10 years. Unfortunately, producer experiences over the last several years have shown that even when using a “resistant” variety, avoiding host-on-host rotations, and using fungicide; when the weather is favourable and F. graminearum is well-established, significant yield and grade losses and deoxynivalenol contamination still occur. Outbreaks of FHB in some areas have greatly compromised producers’ ability to successfully grow and market wheat, thus prompting some producers to re-evaluate wheat as crop of choice and instead look at other cropping options. For example, in areas of the northern Great Plains the acreage of small grain cereals such as wheat and barley has fallen significantly over the last 10-20 years with FHB being one of the main driving factors behind this.  To maintain a viable sector for production of various wheat classes and to face the challenges posed by FHB, a concerted effort is needed to support cropping systems research to investigate strategies that lessen the impact of FHB given that current solutions related to resistance and fungicides only provide suppression at best.


The proposed research will primarily focus on cropping strategies to: reduce the amount of inoculum (primarily infested crop residues); and reduce the extent of host infection. The objectives of the proposed research are:

  1. Can cropping and harvesting practices used by producers influence the level of FHB inoculum and risk in terms of infested-crop residues?
  2. Can cropping and harvesting practices used by producers influence the extent of host infection?
  3. Can cropping practices be used to promote a synergistic reduction in both inoculum availability and host infection?

Research areas will focus on:
A. Strategies to reduce the amount of FHB inoculum

  1. The impact of extending the rotational intervals with non-host crops
  2. The potential synergistic impact of rotation with harvest method/residue management, and fungicide application

B. Strategies to reduce the extent of host infection

  1. The potential impact of row spacing on resulting FHB and DON levels. 
  2. The impact of seeding rate and row spacing in relation to the efficacy of fungicide application and the potential for dual applications to reduce FHB development and mycotoxin contamination.


Dr Kelly Turkington is a plant pathologist with the Lacombe Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), in Lacombe, Alberta, and is part of the joint Alberta/Canada Barley Development Group.  He received a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture in Agricultural Biology in 1985, and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Pathology from the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan.  Kelly’s research at Lacombe focused  on fusarium head blight with projects related to monitoring for Fusarium graminearum in cereals, grasses and corn, as well as investigating shifts in the pathogen in the 2000’s. In addition, his research has looked at the development of risk management strategies for fusarium head blight in relation to infested seed and feed as well as forecasting the potential distribution and severity of F. graminearum over the prairie region under dryland and irrigated production scenarios.  Currently, Kelly is leading two Wheat and one Barley Cluster projects across Canada that are focused on improving in-field management of fusarium head blight.