Fernandez, M. R., May, W. E., Chalmers, S., Savard, M. E. and Singh, A. K. 2014. Are early foliar fungicide applications on durum wheat grown in southeast Saskatchewan beneficial in increasing grain productivity? Can. J. Plant. Sci. 94: 891-903. Producers have expressed interest in applying fungicides early in the development of durum wheat to reduce disease severity and increase grain yield. To address this issue, a field trial was conducted in southeast Saskatchewan (2004-2006) to determine the impacts of single and double foliar fungicide (tebuconazole) applications at various growth stages on leaf spotting, Fusarium head blight/Fusarium-damaged kernels, deoxynivalenol concentration, dark kernel discolouration, and grain traits of durum wheat. In most cases, application at stem elongation was not effective in reducing Fusarium diseases, or improving yield and grain characteristics. Application at flag leaf emergence was more effective, but for the most part, application at anthesis resulted in the most consistent reduction in disease levels, and improvement in test weight. Double fungicide applications (stem elongation or flag leaf emergence, and anthesis) were not more effective in disease control than a single application at anthesis. Grain yield did not differ significantly among any of the treatments. In contrast to Fusarium diseases and leaf spotting, fungicide applications at stem elongation and/or flag leaf emergence resulted in increased kernel weight and percentage dark kernel discolouration, which was significant in 2005 (10.53-10.60% total kernel discolouration in the stem and flag leaf treatments vs. 6.13% for the untreated control). In one or more years, kernel weight was negatively associated with Fusarium disease variables and leaf spotting, but positively associated with kernel discolouration. We conclude that under variable environmental conditions in Saskatchewan, early preventative fungicide use on durum wheat should not be recommended as a strategy to improve productivity, and might even result in increases in dark kernel discolouration and grain downgrading.
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