Wheat stripe rust has been found on a farm in the southern end of North Carolina, adding to the weather-related troubles this year’s crop has already encountered.

It is unusual to see this disease in the state, says veteran North Carolina State University Small Grains Specialist Randy Weisz.

“Wheat stripe rust is a serious threat to our crop, because it can spread very quickly and cause a great deal of damage in a short period of time,” Weisz explains.

He adds, stripe rust often gives a yellow look to the field. So you may look out across a green field of wheat and see a small area that looks yellow. Looking closer, the leaves will have small yellowish rust pustules usually in a line. That is why it's called stripe rust! 

Of the wheat varieties commonly planted in North Carolina, the following are the most likely to be infected with wheat stripe rust:  C9436, DG Shirley, NC Cape Fear, NC Neuse, NC Yadkin, P26R12, SS520, SS560, USG3209, USG3592, USG3665, and SS8404.

Weisz says, if wheat stripe rust is detected, it should be sprayed as soon as possible. Growers have two primary products to use to control the disease, including Folicur and Prosaro. He notes that both products can be used up to 30 days prior to harvest.

Wheat stripe rust often causes severe grain yield and quality loss. The warm, even hot, springtime weather across the Southeast this year has created a good environment for the disease to spread. Worldwide, there has been an increase in the spread and it is now reported in over 60 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.

The pathogen survives from one season to the next on volunteer wheat plants or as latent infections in dormant wheat plantings. Mild winters and cool, moist springs favor the development of subsequent inoculum that can be wind-blown to adjacent fields of wheat.

Wheat stripe rust spores can be blown over very long distances, so infections in one area can be a result of spore showers. These spore showers are literally spores being washed from the sky in a rainfall or when winds slow and allow spores to settle to earth and thus inoculate plants in an area where no disease had been observed.