Reducing Yield Loss in Wheat Through Fungicide Seed Treatments

Reducing Yield Loss in Wheat Through Fungicide Seed Treatments

Fungicide seed treatments help to reduce losses caused by seed transmitted and soilborne fungal diseases of wheat. Some systemic seed treatment products contain a fungicide and an insecticide and offer additional protection against fall season foliar diseases and insects such as aphids which also transmit barley yellow dwarf virus.

Common bunt, also known as stinking smut (Figure 1) is one of several fungal diseases of wheat that result from contaminated or infected seed. Other diseases include loose smut (Figure 2), ergot (Figure 3), root and seedling diseases resulting from Fusarium-infected wheat seed (Figure 4) and black point (Figure 5).

Bunted wheat grain containing spore masses of the stinking smut fungi
Figure 1. Bunted wheat grain containing spore masses of the stinking smut fungi
Bunted wheat grain containing spore masses of the stinking smut fungi
Figure 2. Loose smut on a wheat head
Wheat grain contaminated with ergots
Figure 3. Wheat grain contaminated with ergots
Fusarium-infected wheat grain from a field affected by Fusarium head blight
Figure 4. Fusarium-infected wheat grain from a field affected by Fusarium head blight
Fusarium-infected wheat grain from a field affected by Fusarium head blight
Figure 5. Wheat grain discolored at the embryo region by black point

Economic Importance of Seed Transmitted Diseases

Seed transmitted diseases reduce yields as well as grain quality. Grain contaminated by stinking smut can be rejected at the elevator, often resulting in total loss. The pungent odor associated with contaminated grain causes livestock to reject it, significantly reducing its value as a feed. In addition, the compound responsible for the odor, trymethylamine, has potential to cause explosions in combines and elevators when present in high concentrations.

Loose smut does not affect grain quality, but can result in yield losses of up to 40%.

Incidence of ergot in wheat is relatively low. It can cause up to 10% yield loss. In 2011, ergot caused economic losses in south central and southeast Nebraska. Sclerotia or ergots (compact masses of the ergot fungus) can lower grain quality. In addition, the ergots contain toxic alkaloids that can cause ergotism and death in humans and livestock.

Seedling emergence can be reduced by up to 80% if seed heavily infected or contaminated with Fusarium is sown, for example seed from fields affected by Fusarium head blight (scab).

Black point can significantly reduce the bread-making quality of wheat. Heavy contamination of grain with black point can result in discolored flour. This can be a cause for discounting of the grain at the elevator or rejection of the grain by millers. If such grain is used as untreated seed, reduced germination and seedling blights can occur.

Management of Seed Transmitted Diseases

Three strategies can be used in combination to manage seed transmitted fungal diseases of wheat: fungicide seed treatments, use of clean seed, and planting resistant varieties.

Fungicide seed treatments are important for several reasons.

  1. They control seed transmitted fungal pathogens that may be surface-borne on the seed or internally seed-borne. Additionally, they control soil-borne pathogens such as Bipolaris, Fusarium, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia that cause seedling damping off and root and crown rots. Systemic seed treatments also provide additional protection against fall season foliar fungal diseases.
  2. In addition to controlling diseases, fungicide-insecticide combination seed treatments also control insect pests such as wireworms, Hessian fly, and fall season aphids.
  3. By controlling seedling damping off, seed treatments improve stand establishment and result in healthy, vigorous seedlings. Such seedlings build natural defenses that provide additional protection from diseases and insect pests.

It is preferable to buy certified treated seed or have it cleaned and commercially treated. If seed is treated on-farm, it is essential to clean it first before treating. Cleaning seed before treating is especially necessary if the seed transmitted diseases listed above were present in the field during the growing season. For the seed treatment to be effective, ensure thorough, uniform coverage of the seed surface. If possible, use a broad-spectrum systemic fungicide or fungicide-insecticide combination product. For a list of seed treatment fungicides for control of seed transmitted diseases of wheat, see Table I.

Table 1
Table I - Wheat Seed Treatment Fungicides
Trade Name
    Active Ingredients (%)
Rate (per 100 lb)
    Thiabendazole 30.0%
2.0-4.0 oz
Mertect 340-F
    Thiabendazole 42.3%
0.17-3.19 oz
    Triticonazole 2.4%
3.1 oz
    Tebuconazole 28.3%
0.1 oz
Allegiance Dry
    Metalaxyl 12.5%
1.5-2.0 oz
Allegiance FL
    Metalaxyl 28.35%
0.1-0.375 oz
Allegiance LS
    Metalaxyl 17.7%
1.175-0.66 oz
Apron XL
    Mefenoxam 33.3%
0.0425-0.085 oz
Dyna-Shield Metalaxyl
    Metalaxyl 28.35%
0.1-0.375 oz
Dyna-Shield Metalaxyl 318 FS
    Metalaxyl 30.14%
0.1-0.375 oz
    Sedaxane 43.7%
    Carboxin 34.0%
2.0-3.0 oz
    Azoxystrobin 9.6%
0.153-0.382 oz
Dyna-Sield Fludioxonil
    Fludioxonil 40.3%
0.08-0.16 oz
Maxim 4FS
    Fludioxonil 40.3%
0.08-0.16 oz
Dithane F-45 Rainshield
    Mancozeb 37.0%
1.6 qt/ac
Dithane M-45
    Mancozeb 80.0%
2.0 lb
Grain Guard
    Mancozeb 50.0%
3.3 oz
Penncozeb 75DF
    Mancozeb 75.0%
2.3-3.5 oz
Penncozeb 80WP
    Mancozeb 80.0%
2.2-3.3 oz
    Metalaxyl 2.75%
    + Prothioconazole 6.88%
    + Tebuconazole 1.38%
1.0-1.5 oz
Raxil MD Extra
    Imazalil 1.0%
    + Metalaxyl 0.58%
    + Tebuconazole 0.43%
5.0 oz
Raxil MD Extra-W
    Imazalil 0.965%
    + Metalaxyl 0.56%
    + Tebuconazole 0.415%
5.14 oz
Charter F2
    Metalaxyl 0.79%
    + Triticonazole 1.32%
5.4 oz
CruiserMaxx Cereals
    Difenoconazole 3.36%
    + Mefenoxam 0.56%
    + Thiamethoxam 2.8% (I)
5.0 oz
Dyna-Shield Foothold
    Metalaxyl 0.668%
    + Tebuconazole 0.499%
5.0-6.5 oz
Dyna-Shield Foothold Extra
    Metalaxyl 0.607%
    + Tebuconazole 0.455%
    + Imidacloprid 11.374% (I)
3.4-5.0 oz
Dyna-Shield Small Grains
    Metalaxyl 0.64%
    + Tebuconazole 0.48%
5.0-6.5 oz
Incentive RTA
    Difenoconazole 3.21%
    + Mefenoxam 0.27%
2.5-10.0 oz
NipsIt Suite Cereals
    Metalaxyl 0.88%
    + Metconazole 0.44%
    + Clothianidin 2.93% (I)
5.0-7.5 oz
Rancona Crest
    Ipconazole 0.421%
    + Metalaxyl 0.562%
    + Imidacloprid 14.1% (I)
5.0-8.33 oz
Rancona Pinnacle
    Ipconazole 0.434%
    + Metalaxyl 0.579%
5.0-8.33 oz
Raxil MD
    Metalaxyl 0.64%
    + Tebuconazole 0.48%
5.0-6.5 oz
Raxil MD-W
    Metalaxyl 0.615%
    + Tebuconazole 0.461%
    + Imidacloprid 1.538% (I)
5.0 oz
Raxil XT Wettable Powder
    Metalaxyl 20.0%
    + Tebuconazole 15.0%
0.16-0.2 oz
CruiserMaxx Vibrance Cereals
    Difenoconazole 3.34%
    + Mefenoxam 0.86%
    + Sedaxane 0.72%
    + Thiamethoxam 2.78% (I)
5.0-10.0 oz
EverGol Energy
    Metalaxyl 5.74%
    + Penflufen 3.59%
    + Prothioconazole 7.18%
1.0 oz
Rancona V RTU FS
    Carboxin 12.58%
    + Ipconazole 0.47%
    + Metalaxyl 1.26%
4.6 oz
Vibrance Extreme
    Difenoconazole 5.86%
    + Mefenoxam 1.46%
    + Sedaxane 1.22%
2.8-5.6 oz
Rancona V 100 Pro FS
    Carboxin 35.52%
    + Ipconazole 2.22%
0.9-1.5 oz
Charter PB
    Thiram 12.5%
    + Triticonazole 1.25%
5.5 oz
Raxil Thiram
    Tebuconazole 0.6%
    + Thiram 20.0%
3.5-4.6 oz
    Carboxin 15.0%
    + PCNB 15.0%
    + Metalaxyl 3.12%
1.5-3.0 oz per bushel
Maxim XL
    Fludioxonil 21.0%
    + Mefenoxam 8.4%
0.167-0.334 oz
    Copper Hydroxide 46.1%
    + Mancozeb 15.0%
4.0 oz

Fungicide seed treatments are not effective against ergot. The best strategy for managing this disease is to use certified, pathogen-free seed.

For more information on diseases affecting grain and seed quality in wheat, see EC1872, Distinguishing Between Head Disorders of Wheat.

Resistant varieties, where available, can be used in combination with seed cleaning and seed treatments to more effectively manage seed transmitted diseases of wheat.

Importance of Using Clean, Certified, Fungicide Treated Seed

The importance of using clean, certified, fungicide treated seed cannot be overemphasized. Clean, certified, treated seed optimizes the chances of obtaining high yields. Using farmer-saved or bin-run seed is likely to result in poor variety purity, a low germination percentage, poor stand establishment, and disease, insect, and weed problems. The result will be reduced yield and poor grain quality. Total loss may result if grain is heavily contaminated with fungal spores such as those of the stinking smut fungi. Additional costs may be incurred in treating for diseases, insects, and weeds resulting from use of poor quality seed. In terms of dollars, the return from using clean, certified, treated seed will almost always exceed the cost of the seed. Using clean, certified, treated seed is a form of insurance that is definitely worth the cost.

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