College of ACES
College News

Manage Fusarium head blight of wheat with variety selection

Published September 7, 2011
Research results from the 2011 Fusarium head blight evaluations are now available on the University of Illinois Variety Testing website for growers to consider when choosing wheat varieties this fall.

"Fusarium head blight, or scab, is one of the greatest threats to Illinois wheat producers," said Carl Bradley, University of Illinois Extension plant pathologist. "In addition to causing yield reductions and poor test weights, the fungus that causes the disease (Fusarium graminearum) can produce chemicals known as mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON) that contaminate grain."

Mycotoxins such as DON can be a serious problem for producers and millers because of limitations on the amount of DON that is allowable in food and livestock feed. In some severe cases, harvested grain contaminated with high levels of DON may be rejected for sale.

The most effective way to manage scab and DON is through integrating different management practices, Bradley said.

U of I studies have shown that the best combination of practices for managing scab and DON is the combination of sowing wheat into fields previously cropped to soybean (rather than corn); planting the most scab-resistant varieties available; and spraying a fungicide when the crop begins to flower (if needed, based on the presence of weather favorable for scab).

"Growing the most scab-resistant varieties available may be the most important scab management decision," said Fred Kolb, U of I small grains breeder and professor in the Department of Crop Sciences. "For the past several years, our research program has screened wheat varieties for their level of scab resistance in the field. We evaluate these varieties in a mist-irrigated field nursery that has uniform high levels of scab."

Research results are available at under the "small grains" section.

"Using these results to choose the most scab-resistant varieties available for planting this fall will help provide the best foundation for scab management for the 2011-12 wheat-growing season," Kolb said.

Scab research at the University of Illinois is supported by the U. S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI). For more information about USWBSI, visit For more information on disease and pest management and crop production, visit the Bulletin at

Is your weed management program effective?

Published September 7, 2011
Take advantage of the elevated view from your combine cab to survey and assess the effectiveness of your weed management program this fall.

"A field free of weeds during harvest is very desirable and represents an outcome that will require increased management as weeds continue to adapt to modern crop production practices," said Aaron Hager, University of Illinois Extension weed specialist.

Many observations have been made recently that waterhemp and horseweed are frequently appearing in corn and soybean fields across Illinois. Hager's recent field visits have indicated that seed production on these mature plants has been successful, suggesting a preharvest herbicide application may do little to reduce the viability of these mature seeds.

"There are many reasons that these two particular weed species have successfully completed their life cycle in corn and soybean fields," he said. "One reason is the occurrence of herbicide resistance. Glyphosate resistance in Illinois waterhemp and horseweed populations is known to occur, and we suspect this will become increasingly common in future growing seasons.

"Additionally, resistance to five different herbicide site-of-action families has been documented to occur in Illinois waterhemp populations. In all instances except one, these resistance traits can be transferred by movement of both pollen and seed."

Herbicide-resistant populations generally do not infest an entire field over the course of a single growing season. Rather these populations usually begin as a small number of plants that survive to produce seed.

The next season the herbicide-resistant population may exist as a patch of weeds encompassing a small area within the field. Rogueing these plants from the field before they produce viable pollen and seed can help slow the spread of the herbicide-resistant population within the field and reduce the movement of the resistance trait to other fields, Hager said.

"Female waterhemp plants have the potential to produce in excess of one million seeds per plant, although that number is usually much smaller when the waterhemp plants have grown under competitive conditions," he said. "If you notice a few surviving female waterhemp plants in a field, it might be a good investment of time to remove these plants before they enter the combine. Combines can spread weed seed across a field and transport seed from one field to another."

If a herbicide-resistant waterhemp population is present or suspected in a particular field, consider harvesting that field last to prevent introducing the seed from the resistant plants into the combine and their subsequent movement to other fields, Hager suggests. Another option is to avoid patches of weeds during harvest operations.

For more information, read the Sept. 8 edition of The Bulletin at

Digital photos available for three months at

Tips for home vegetable gardening in the fall

Published September 7, 2011
Home vegetable gardeners may be busy harvesting this time of year, but University of Illinois Extension local foods/small farms educator Maurice Ogutu says it's also a time to plant and prepare for next year's garden.

"Home gardeners can plant garlic in mid-October in soil beds and cover with straw mulch to protect the cloves from cold winter temperatures," said Ogutu.

"They can also extend the harvesting period by using frost-protection techniques such as covering plants with blankets or plastic films during the nights when freezing temperatures are predicted.

"However, there are very hardy vegetables such as beets and carrots that can survive freezing night temperatures and can be harvested into the winter months."

Ogutu noted that such vegetables need to be covered by about a 6-inch layer of an organic mulch such as straw or hay after the first hard frost.

"Harvesting of carrots and beets can continue in winter through early spring before carrot shoots appear," he said.

"Brussel sprouts, kale, and parsnips can also be harvested after freezing weather, and the quality of the harvestable parts is very high after being exposed to freezing temperatures.

"Spinach can also be harvested after the first frost, and some may overwinter and start growing in early spring as the ground warms up."

Ogutu recommended that, after harvesting other vegetables from the garden home, gardeners clean up all the debris, weeds, stalks, and plant parts that remain.

"It is advisable to discard any diseased plant material and weeds loaded with seeds," he said. "The other plant materials can be composted or rototilled into the soil. You can apply compost or manure and till it in at this time."

You may need to give your garden a winter cover by planting winter cover crops in early September to mid-October. The commonly planted winter cover crops in northern Illinois are winter rye and spring oats.

"Plant the cover crop by scattering seeds over tilled soil at the rates of 3 to 5 pounds of winter rye or 2 ½ pounds of spring oats per 1,000 square feet and rake the seeds in gently," Ogutu said. "Plow in the cover crops the following spring to improve fertility and organic matter content of your garden.

"Remember to clean up your garden tools, oil them and store them in late fall. Store leftover pesticides in their original containers and follow label directions before disposing of any leftover pesticides."


Illinois prof brings research on divorce issues to his Huffington Post blog

Published September 7, 2011
Few topics generate more heated discussion than divorce-related topics, and University of Illinois professor Robert Hughes Jr. is right in the thick of things as he blogs research-based advice in the Huffington Post's Life & Style "Divorce" section.

"So many families are struggling with divorce-related issues and trying to figure out what to do with their feelings of loss and anger. I try to translate current research into useful advice," said Hughes, head of the U of I's Department of Human and Community Development.

Hughes isn't sure how readers find their way to the blogs on the divorce page, and he doesn't care--as long as people are reading. He suspects that people are attracted by coverage of celebrity divorces and are then drawn to the blogs by the lively discussions that go on there.

Hughes has the library alert him to new research on the topic (about 20 studies a week), and he writes about those he believes will interest his audience.

Past blogs that stand out for the number of comments and times they were forwarded: Do the courts favor mothers in custody arrangements? How does religion affect the divorce rate? Does military deployment increase a couple's divorce risk?

And what current research will prompt a future blog? Studies piquing Hughes's interest include a debate about whether there's a genetic influence on divorce. "It's complicated, but we do see patterns of behavior in couple interactions that may have a genetic basis."

Another controversial topic is parental alienation syndrome, which occurs when one parent tries to turn the child against the other. "Is it real? Does it affect mostly younger kids? How should parents deal with it?" he asked.

This year he hopes to get students involved in reading the studies, deciding which articles are important to blog about, and teaching them how to make scientific findings meaningful to the general public, he said.

Having dealt with divorce for years as a family life expert, Hughes knows he'll never run out of material. Even when a marriage ends, children and life experience tie a couple together in many ways, he said.

"If your former spouse becomes seriously ill, you'll probably still be concerned for him and for how your children are feeling, no matter how long you've been apart," he said.

Hughes believes his blog and others provide a good place for people to talk about their feelings and experiences, and they're also a good source of information.

To read Hughes's blog and others, visit .


Sarah Sexton

Payne Burks

Teaching Assistant

Amy Kolweier

Alissa Stauffer

Joseph Spencer

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Joanne Chee-Sanford

Adjunct Assistant Professor
N-327 Turner Hall
1102 S. Goodwin
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 265-0959