Christina Hagerty/OSU Columbia Basin Ag Research Center
Scientists are cautioning wheat farmers in northeast Oregon about the early return of a pernicious, stunting disease that can reduce yields by as much as 41 percent.
Christina Hagerty, an Oregon State University assistant professor and plant pathologist at the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center, said soil-borne wheat mosaic virus has arrived four weeks earlier than last year at a disease resistance nursery near Milton-Freewater, Ore.
Already, Hagerty said she has met with five farmers about the virus and she expects more phone calls in the weeks to come.
“I think that we’re probably in for another mosaic virus year,” she said. “It’s not ideal.”
The virus, carried by a soil-borne organism, appears to be spreading around the region. Since it was discovered in the Walla Walla Valley in 2008, it has expanded from a five-mile radius to a 25-mile radius stretching into southeast Washington.
“This organism can spread any way you can think of soil spreading,” she said. “The good news is the breeders, private and public industry are working really hard to develop some good options for genetic resistance.”
Hagerty said the early arrival is likely due to warm weather in January. Symptoms are primarily seen in leaves and include yellow streaks, mosaic patterns, splotching and stunted growth.
Hagerty said farmers who recognize any of these symptoms should send a sample to either the OSU plant clinic in Hermiston, Ore., or Washington State University plant clinic in Pullman, Wash., for diagnostic testing.
“The window to diagnose is as short as eight weeks,” she said. “If they get a positive, there’s not a lot they can do this year, but they will know it is in the field and that will inform their variety selection for the following crop year.”
Soil-borne wheat mosaic virus does not respond to fumigation, and Hagerty said genetic resistance is the best tool for farmers dealing with the virus in their fields.
“We may be dealing with (the virus) on a more annual basis,” she said.
For questions or a list of genetically resistant wheat varieties, contact Hagerty at CBARC, 541-278-4186.