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Snow Mold, Bull Test, Sustainability

Posted by | February 6, 2008

Genetic Map Should Speed Development of Snow Mold-Resistant Wheat

A blanket of snow protects winter wheat from freezing, but heavy snow cover for too long on unfrozen ground can lead to a disease problem that farmers don’t want: snow mold.

Snow mold is a fungus-caused disease of wheat and other grasses, including lawns. When severe, the disease can cut wheat yields by 20 to 40 percent. The fungus destroys leaves and crown beneath the snow, according to Tim Murray, chair of WSU’s plant pathology department.

“We normally need about 100 days of snow cover with unfrozen soil for speckled snow mold to be a problem,” Murray said. “We’re approaching that in our snow mold area.

Signs of the disease appear just after snowmelt. “Within a day of snow melt, plants will be covered with a mildew or sort of a light colored cobweb,” Murray said.

Fall-applied fungicides can control the disease, but bred-in genetic resistance is regarded as the best, most cost-effective option.

Some current wheat varieties, including Eltan and Bruehl, have snow mold resistance, “but we’re always looking to make improvements,” Murray said.

For the past 10 years, Murray has been collaborating with scientists in Hokkaido to develop wheat varieties with improved resistance to snow mold.

The scientists have evaluated 100 progeny lines from a cross of highly resistant wheat from Switzerland and very susceptible wheat from The Netherlands and are now developing a genetic map that should help wheat breeders identify resistant plants more quickly.

“It could save breeders years,” Murray said. “You can’t count on getting a field test every year, especially in Washington. That’s part of the reason we send our lines to be field-tested in Japan. They get the disease more frequently. Even so, it takes 12 months to go through one round of testing. With our controlled-environment tests and genetic markers, we can do multiple rounds of testing in a year.”

Middle: snow mold infects turf grass; bottom: pink snow mold on winter wheat. Snow mold images courtesy of University of Illinois and Montana State University.

Bull Test Sale is March 26

The WCA/WSU Bull Test Sale is scheduled for March 26 at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

Bull test sale day activities will start at 8 a.m., with a trade show organized by WCA Allied Industry members. The bull sale will start at 12:30 p.m. The top 135 bulls of the 179 bulls currently on test will sell. Complete test data, including 120-day test gain and ultrasound carcass information is available on line at or by contacting test entry coordinator Sharon Taff at (509) 786-9220.

The evening before, Jim Sizemore, Washington Cattle Association President, and Jack Fields, Executive Vice President of the WCA will be the featured speakers at the WCA/WSU All Breed Bull Test Social Hour and Breeders’ Forum. The social hour begins at 6 p.m. on March 25, and is followed at 7 p.m. by Sizemore and Field’s presentation at the Breeder’s Forum. Consignors, buyers and other interested individuals are welcome to attend this hosted event.

Sizemore and Fields will address the involvement of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association with the WCA/WSU Bull Test and involvement in the cattle industry.

For more information about the tested bull sale or the social hour and breeder’s forum, contact test manager Bob Stevens at (509) 786-9231.

Bull test sale is March 26 in at the WSU IAREC in Prosser. Image courtesy USDA-ARS.

Sustainable Communities Videocast

On Friday, Feb. 8, from 10 to 11 a.m., WSU will videocast a forum on sustainable communities.

The forum will take a practical approach to addressing the many issues surrounding community sustainability and explore methods communities can use to plan for sustainability. The forum will address three topics: 1) educating cities, counties, and other interested parties about sustainability and the issues surrounding community sustainability; 2) establishing the importance of planning for sustainability at the local scale; and 3) promoting Sustainability Assessment as a tool that cities and counties can utilize to achieve greater sustainability and accountability.

In-studio guests will include William Budd, an environmental planning specialist in WSU’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services and a professor of Environmental Science and Regional Planning; Bob Scarfo, associate professor of landscape architecture; and Heidi Sowell and Kara Whitman, doctoral students in WSU’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The program will also include videotaped interviews with officials from the cities of Moscow, Idaho and Pullman, as well as other WSU faculty. Catch the ‘cast at

West side or east side, you can join in a sustainability forum Feb 8 by pointing your browser to