1997 Executive Summary

Securing the Food Safety and Sustainability of the Wheat and Barley Industries in the North Central Region of the United States

A Cooperative Project

Executive Summary

Fusarium blight, generally known as "scab", has emerged in recent years as an industry-threatening disease for all classes of wheat and barley in the United States. Across North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota, yield and grain quality losses approached one billion dollars in 1993 and ranged from 200-400 million dollars across the region in subsequent years. Losses were in excess of 300 million dollars in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois in 1995 and 1996. Those facts are themselves alarming, but the problem is amplified to the level of a strategic threat because scab infected grain is usually contaminated with "vomitoxin" (deoxynivalenol), a toxic metabolite produced when the fungal pathogen invades the developing kernel. Unchecked, scab represents a profound threat to the economic and food safety environment of the United States. In Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, as well as other soft wheat producing areas, scab could conceivably eliminate wheat as a viable component of cropping systems. In the hard wheat production regions of the mid-west U.S., where wheat dominates the landscape, scab threatens the very fabric of America's rural economy. Barley production has already been either threatened or eliminated in areas of the upper mid-west where brewers have imposed near zero tolerance limits for vomitoxin in grain.

This proposal describes a comprehensive, collaborative project that synergistically harnesses and directs the research capacities of ten Land Grant Universities in the north-central region (Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio). Several new, collaborative and multi-state activities designed to directly benefit all participants are proposed:

  1. Food Safety and Post-Harvest Management Research Network.
  2. Regional Advanced Breeding Material Evaluation Nursery System.
  3. Germplasm Introduction and Evaluation System.
  4. Fungicide Application Technology Research Network.
  5. Research and Outreach Information Network.

These multi-state activities will be complemented by strategic investments throughout the region to amplify and strengthen ongoing efforts aimed at understanding and combating this threat to America's agriculture, economy, and food safety. The two main target areas for those resources are:

  1. Strengthening and expansion of ongoing plant breeding efforts.
  2. Expansion and integration of scab epidemiology and crop management research.

The management and control of scab is a research area that will require sustained investment for an extended period of time. Rapid technological and informational developments are fully expected. The top-level management entity for the project will be a committee comprised of the Director's of the Agricultural Experiment Stations from each of the cooperating states. The initial annual budget request is $5,125,000.