Fusarium graminearum is no longer a part of the Pest and Nuisance Control Regulation.

For more information, read the release: Helping Alberta’s farmers stay competitive.

Overview

Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a serious fungal disease of cereal crops that affects kernel development. The main cause of FHB is the fungus Fusarium graminearum, which results in significant losses in grain yield and grain quality, and triggers the production of mycotoxins. For more information, see: Fusarium head blight – Overview.

Industry losses

Losses in Canada due to FHB have ranged from $50 million to $300 million annually since the early 1990s. Direct and secondary economic losses due to FHB for all crops in the Northern Great Plains and central USA were estimated to be $2.7 billion from 1998 to 2000 alone.

Government actions

In 1999, it was added as a declared pest to Alberta’s Agricultural Pests Act. This Act is the legislative authority for enforcement of control measures for named pests in in the province.

In late 2002, after an extensive public consultation process, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development released the first comprehensive Alberta Fusarium graminearum Management Plan. The objective of this plan is to limit the introduction, escalation, spread and economic impact of F. Graminearum in Alberta.

Current Alberta situation

F. graminearum has been present at very low levels in Alberta since 1989. However, it has been increasing in incidence and severity in southern Alberta. In 2010 and 2011, FHB resulted in grade reductions due to the presence of FDKs, especially in durum and highly susceptible red spring and soft white wheat varieties grown under irrigation.

Fortunately, FHB and F. graminearum are much less common in the rest of the province at this time. Changes in chemotype of the pathogen have occurred in the eastern Prairies, but the new "3ADON" chemotype remains at a relatively low level in Alberta at this time. In 2010, about 10% of the F. graminearum isolates collected during the provincial FHB survey were the 3ADON type.

Regulatory status

F. graminearum is a declared pest under Alberta’s Agricultural Pests Act. This Act is the legislative authority for enforcement of control measures for named pests in Alberta.

  • Under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act, the owner or occupant of land has the responsibility of taking measures to prevent the establishment of a pest on any land or property and to control or destroy all pests on the land or property.
  • Section 22c of the Agricultural Pests Act states: "No person shall for propagation purposes acquire, sell, distribute or use any seed, root, tuber or other vegetable material containing a pest."
  • Pest inspectors are appointed by the local municipality or by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. By virtue of the office, an Agricultural Fieldman is a pest inspector under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act. Pest inspectors have the power to enter land at a reasonable hour, without permission, to inspect for pests and collect samples.
  • Enforcement of pest control measures is the responsibility of the municipal authority. The Agricultural Fieldman is responsible for enforcing pest control measures in their respective municipality.
  • It is important to understand that the control measures outlined in this management plan represent guidelines intended to assist producers and municipalities across the province to comply with the Agricultural Pests Act.
  • Municipalities have the authority to enhance the standard for any named pest within their own jurisdiction.

Failure to follow the recommendations in this plan may result in enforcement under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act.

Why you need a plan

Mycotoxin production

F. graminearum produces mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone. The presence of these mycotoxins reduces the marketability of grain.

  • Livestock and poultry are susceptible to DON. Zearalenone has estrogenic effects, and depending on the concentration, ingestion can result in reproductive dysfunctions.
  • Lightweight, shrivelled, fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) may contain high concentrations of DON. Levels as high as 30 parts per million (ppm) in wheat and barley have been detected in other provinces.
  • In non-ruminants, such as hogs, contamination of feed grain with as little as 1 ppm of DON can result in reduced feed consumption and, consequently, a reduction in growth. At concentrations of 5 ppm or more, feed refusal can occur. Young pigs are more susceptible to the effects of DON and may exhibit feed refusal, vomiting and reduced weight gain with dietary concentrations of less than 1 ppm. Most hog producers have a zero tolerance for DON in the feed they use.
  • Adult beef cattle can tolerate higher levels of DON without known detrimental effects. Some studies have shown that cattle can feed on grain that has up to 12 ppm of DON, but calves and pregnant cows may have problems at lower levels of contamination.
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada guidelines for acceptable feed are 1 ppm of DON for swine, dairy cattle and horses, and 5 ppm for beef cattle, sheep and poultry.
  • The presence of compounds associated with DON will also affect the production of beer. The compounds affect the taste of beer and may cause gushing or excess foaming. Most malting companies now have a zero tolerance for DON and test for it before purchasing grain stocks.
  • Bread making is also affected by the fungi-forming DON. Flour changes colour and the bread does not rise normally. The baking process does not destroy DON.
  • The presence of DON in food products is increasingly being regulated, and tolerance limits have been established in many countries.
  • Several methods, both chemical and physical, have been studied as potential methods of detoxifying DON. Unfortunately, there is no easy, economical way to reduce the toxicity of the mycotoxin-contaminated kernels.

Risk of spread

The presence of a virulent pathogen in sufficient quantity, a susceptible host and a favourable environment are requirements for the development of disease.

  • Survey information currently available indicates that F. graminearum is being found with increasing frequency in southern Alberta, and in 2010 and 2011, its presence resulted in downgrading of wheat due to the presence of FDKs. However, F. graminearum is still relatively rare in the central and northern regions of the province.
  • On a medium- to long-term basis, short distance (field to field) spread of F. graminearum can introduce newer types of this pathogen (e.g. the 3ADON chemotype) into Alberta, as well as influencing further spread within Alberta.
  • The long distance spread of wind-borne ascospores is improbable. Dispersal of ascospores occurs over relatively short distances. Ascospore survival is significantly reduced after exposure to natural UV radiation from the sun. Long distance spread could potentially occur via movement of infested residues attached to various types of equipment that are routinely used in farm fields. Erosion of soil containing bits of Fusarium-infected crop residues may also be a method of dispersal, but would be less important compared with infected grain, straw or stalks, or significant amounts of infested soil and/or stubble on tillage equipment.
  • Alberta's environment is not a barrier to the spread of F. graminearum. Recent modelling research predicts that the potential range of FHB caused by F. graminearum may include the entire prairie region, but is of special concern in higher rainfall regions, such as the Parkland Zone. Irrigated regions were also predicted to be at risk from this pathogen, which has been confirmed given the recent development of damaging levels in irrigated fields.
  • FHB is a disease of economic importance in southern Alberta, especially under irrigation and potentially in wetter regions elsewhere in Alberta, e.g. central Alberta.
  • Once the pathogen establishes, it will readily overwinter on infected crop residue

F. graminearum is a seed-borne pathogen. Infected seed or feed, along with infested crop residues such as straw, represent the greatest risks of introducing or spreading F. graminearum within areas of Alberta where the pathogen is not commonly found, i.e. non-irrigated regions of central and northern Alberta.

Economic impact

FHB caused by F. graminearum has been a serious disease in Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan for over a decade. Losses are estimated to be in the millions of dollars annually.

In 2004, an economic assessment of the potential cost to Alberta crop production was based on matching Alberta crop districts with Manitoba crop districts with similar projected FHB risk levels. Given annual variability in disease development in these similar risk areas in Manitoba, projected average annual costs over a modelled nine-year period in Alberta could range from $3 million to as high as $49 million. The risk analysis also suggested that total losses could possibly be as high as $64 million.

  • The greatest projected economic losses could possibly occur in central and east-central Alberta and in the irrigated districts of southern Alberta.
  • CWRS wheat and barley are expected to experience the greatest losses due to their extensive acreages.
  • Over the modelled nine-year period, projected per acre costs (grade and yield reductions combined) due to F. graminearum under irrigation ranged up to $30 to $50 per acre and $52 to $132 per acre for CWRS and durum wheat, respectively, depending on the crop district and modelled year. Under dryland production, the maximum per acre costs were lower, but could range up to $50 per acre depending on the crop district and modelled year.
  • In 2009, grade reductions in southern Alberta due to the presence of FDK were estimated to have cost affected growers approximately $30 to $39 per acre in durum, $10 per acre in SWS and $9 to $33 per acre for CWRS, depending on the crop district. These estimates did not include reductions in yield, which would have also occurred.

For more information, see Economic Cost of Fusarium (2018).

Best practices

As part of the Alberta Fusarium graminearum Management Plan, a set of best management practices (BMP) was introduced. These goal of these practices is to help cereal and corn producers limit the introduction, escalation, spread and economic impact of F. graminearum in Alberta.

Responsibilities

Government and industry are working together to limit the introduction, escalation, spread and economic impact of FHB in Alberta. The following organizations are responsible for:

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

  • Co-ordinate the Alberta F. graminearum Management Plan.
  • Provide training, regulatory support and consultation to inspectors enforcing the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act and Regulation.
  • Prepare and provide technical information on F. graminearum management recommendations to inspectors and field staff.
  • Provide training in disease identification and management.
  • Evaluate the Alberta F. graminearum Management Plan in consultation with the Fusarium Action Committee as required.
  • Facilitate surveillance activities in conjunction with stakeholders from various levels of government and industry.
  • Co-ordinate provincial awareness activities for FHB.

Agricultural Service Boards (ASB)

  • Provide support and resources to the Agricultural Fieldmen in carrying out their duties.
  • Agricultural Fieldmen will monitor their respective municipalities for F. graminearum.
  • Enforce control measures as necessary to meet the objectives of the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act and Regulation.
  • Provide recommendations and information to farmers on FHB prevention and control based on the Alberta Fusarium graminearum Management Plan and other relevant sources of information.
  • Conduct field surveys and maintain records of infestations if found.

Landowner/occupant, seed/grain/feed processors, and end users

  • Take responsibility to control, destroy or prevent the establishment of F. graminearum as outlined in the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act and Regulation.
  • Observe and practice all management practices to meet the objectives of the Alberta F. graminearum Management Plan.

Oil, gas, construction and trucking industries

  • Observe and practice all management practices to meet the objectives of the Alberta F. graminearum Management Plan.

Fusarium Action Committee

  • Provide a forum to represent the interests and views of Alberta's agricultural industry regarding the management of F. graminearum.
  • Recommend management strategies for F. graminearum for inclusion in the Alberta
  • F. graminearum Management Plan.
  • Educate Alberta's crop and livestock industries about F. graminearum and the threat it represents to producers, processors and other stakeholders.
  • Will review and evaluate the Alberta F. graminearum Management Plan in consultation with AARD as required.

Fusarium Action Committee Members

Contact

Connect with the Ag-Info Centre:

Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)
Phone: 403-742-7901 (outside Alberta)
Email: [email protected]