Diseases are a major cause of yield loss in winter wheat. Environmental conditions in Nebraska vary considerably because elevation increases and rainfall decreases from east to west. In addition, approximately 5% of winter wheat production in the state occurs under irrigation. This variation in environmental conditions has a major influence on the prevalence and incidence of specific wheat diseases across the state.
The most damaging disease of winter wheat in Nebraska is wheat streak mosaic, caused by wheat streak mosaic virus. Although this disease has occurred predominantly in the western part of the state, it has caused damage in the south central and eastern parts as well. Other diseases commonly observed on winter wheat in Nebraska are leaf rust, various leaf spots including tan spot and Septoria leaf and glume blotch, and loose smut. Stripe rust and common bunt occur sporadically. Diseases not commonly seen, but which occurred in 2007 due to highly favorable environmental conditions, include barley yellow dwarf, caused by barley yellow dwarf virus, and Fusarium head blight or scab.
Preliminary Disease Identification
If you are unsure of what disease your wheat may have, you may want to review Wheat Disease Profles I & II, which show pictures and describe common symptoms of various wheat diseases. The multi-state Extension publication Wheat Disease Identification is another excellent resource for identifying disease problems in wheat. Identifying Rust Diseases of Wheat and Barley is a multi-state Extension publication that can help you differentiate between three rust diseases of wheat.