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Hessian Fly & Rusts in Carolina Wheat Fields

NC State Wheat Specialist Dr. Randy Weize reports that Hessian fly has been a problem in this year’s wheat crop without a heavy freeze in the late fall:

“There are fields right now in NC where the wheat has been going backwards and that is a good indication that you have Hessian fly, you generally start to get a stand and then a grower will go back and look and think “I thought I had a better stand than that.” Some of the tillers will start to die and some of the leaves will die. That has been going on. Its very difficult to successfully manage a Hessian fly infestation at this time.”

Then there’s leaf rust. Weisz says this is an issue that shows up in late spring most years:

“Normally the only rust that we deal with is leaf rust, but I think most small grain growers know what it looks like – little brown fungal pustules on the leaves when the weather gets really hot and dry. Spraying a fungicide is very important for control.”

Then there’s another animal known as stripe rust. Weisz explains that stripe rust is leaf rusts’ cool weather cousin:

“We don’t get it often because the spores have to get blown up from South America. They have to first infest wheat fields along the Gulf states, and then the spores from those fields have to get blown up to NC. Usually by the time that happens, its May and its too hot and we never have to deal with it. But this year the infection has happened early in the Gulf States, they are already spraying for it there. All the conditions are set for those spores to arrive early here in NC. Our weather is ideal for stripe rust.”

Weisz explains that if a grower identifies what is thought to be stripe rust in a field, the grower should notify their extension agent immediately.

Dr. Randy Weisz, NC State Small Grain Specialist. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.