Tag Archives: K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Water is critical to the survival of all living creatures, but if that water source is compromised, it can have deadly consequences.

For cattle ranchers, watering their livestock from ponds and the presence of high amounts of blue-green algae can be a threat, said Scott Fritz, toxicology resident with the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic lab.

“It is common when we look at case histories to see a sudden, overnight death associated with blue-green algae,” Fritz said during a recent Cattle Chat podcast with the experts at the Beef Cattle Institute.

To avoid this tragedy, Fritz said cattle ranchers need to monitor the ponds that cattle drink from, especially in late summer.

“Blue-green algae are present in every body of water and they are an important part of the ecosystem. However, in mid-summer the water can become stagnant when the rain tapers off, and that is when the algae will rapidly bloom,” Fritz said. When those algae blooms start to die, toxins are released.

He said there are visual cues that ranchers can watch for when monitoring the ponds.

“You’ll first see what looks like pond scum on the top of the water. It can be blue, green or orange,” Fritz said. “Any time the pond looks a little different, it is important to get it tested.”

To test the water, Fritz said producers should collect a sample by using a container, jar or old water bottle.

“The blooms are buoyant, so on a windy day they tend to drift to one side of the pond and that is a great place to make the collection,” Fritz said. He recommended that when ranchers collect a sample, they should try to gather water a few inches below the surface.

When the samples arrive at the lab, they are evaluated under a microscope for the presence of algae. If algae are present then the scientists do follow up testing to determine how much toxin is concentrated, he said.

Fritz has observed that blooms are becoming more common and can occur more than once in a summer on an individual pond, which is why monitoring is important. He also said that cattle can be given access to the pond once it is determined through testing that it is safe.

“It isn’t economically practical to keep cattle off pastures for years, so the best thing producers can do is monitor the ponds. Once the blooms are gone and the toxins are no longer present, it is safe to put the cows back out there provided the water is going to continue to be monitored,” Fritz said.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Imagine that you’re a bite of food that’s consumed and travels all the way through the body.

That’s what children across Kansas do when they physically walk through a tubular structure called the Body Venture Exhibit. It’s an experiential way for children to learn about the food they eat and the implications for their health.

Now, K-State Research and Extension through its SNAP-Ed program, will be part of supporting the Body Venture Exhibit, thanks to a $96,648 federal grant awarded recently to the Kansas Department of Education.

The exhibit, which travels to as many as 100 schools a year, is a fun way for children to learn and targets those with greater than 50% free or reduced-price lunch eligible students, according to Kansas SNAP-Ed coordinator Lisa Ross. Kansas SNAP-Ed supports low income Kansans in making healthy choices through nutrition and physical activity.

The new collaboration means Kansas SNAP-Ed nutrition education will be incorporated into the Body Venture Exhibit. K-State Research and Extension agents across the state will help in recruiting volunteers to set up the exhibit at schools, give presentations and assist teachers with educational activities.

“The partnership between the Kansas Department of Education, K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farm Bureau is a natural fit,” Ross said, “given that all are deeply involved in teaching about agriculture and food production, proper nutrition and healthy food choices.”

The funding will support the Body Venture Exhibit for two years. It was part of $12.1 million in the Farm to School Grant program awarded to universities and organizations throughout the country by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are expected to reach nearly 21 million students in 47,000 schools. Two other Kansas organizations, the Fresh Farm HQ Cooperative Association and the Kansas Rural Center, also received funding for projects.

In some years, wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) can be a severe problem for Kansas wheat producers. Fields with very severe wheat streak mosaic can typically be traced back to a lack of control of volunteer wheat. Problems with wheat production the previous year can leave large amounts of seed on the soil surface. As this seed germinates, it creates a “green bridge”, allowing wheat streak mosaic and wheat curl mites to survive locally.

Challenges faced in 2020

This year, the wheat crop faced several challenges that might have increased the amount of seed left behind after harvest, which could also increase the amount of volunteer wheat (Figure 1). These problems included:

  • Freeze damage during stem elongation (which caused many delayed wheat heads to emerge)
  • Hailed out wheat
  • Some reports of head scab (Fusarium head blight)
  • Waterlogging conditions in parts of central Kansas
  • Drought-stressed wheat

The presence of later-emerged heads due to the freeze damage to main stems can cause differences in maturity between tillers that survived the freeze and later tillers, which can increase harvest losses. One of the recommendations to manage fields affected by head scab is to increase the fan speed of the combine and “blow” the diseased kernels out of the harvested grain.  Likewise, waterlogged conditions and drought stress both decrease wheat kernel weight and likely increase harvest losses of grain. These smaller kernels might germinate into volunteer wheat increasing the risk of severe wheat streak mosaic the following year.

Figure 1. Thick stand of volunteer wheat after wheat harvest. Photo by Stu Duncan, K-State Research and Extension.


Wheat curl mites will move off growing wheat as the green tissue dries down and dies. After moving off the existing wheat at or near harvest time, the mites need to find green tissue of a suitable host soon or they will die of desiccation.

Producers often like to wait several weeks after harvest before making their first herbicide application to control volunteer wheat. This allows as much volunteer as possible to emerge before spraying it or tilling it the first time. Often, a second application or tillage operation will be needed later in the summer to eliminate the green bridge to fall-planted wheat by making sure all volunteer is dead within ½ mile of wheat being planted in the fall. Wet weather through late summer often favors multiple flushes of volunteer wheat and also favors the growth of other grassy weeds that can also support moderate populations of the curl mites and virus. These weather patterns keep a lot more alternate host plants alive during the critical period when mites and virus would not have plants to survive on.

If volunteer has emerged and is still alive shortly after harvest in hailed-out wheat, wheat curl mites could easily build up rapidly and spread to other volunteer wheat that emerges later in the season. On the other hand, if this early-emerging volunteer is controlled shortly after harvest, that will help greatly in breaking the green bridge. However, if more volunteer emerges during the summer, follow-up control will still be needed.

Other hosts for the wheat curl mite

Volunteer wheat is not the only host of the wheat curl mite. Over the years, multiple research studies have evaluated the suitability of wild grasses as hosts for both the curl mite and the wheat streak virus. There is considerable range in the ability of a grassy weed species to host the mite and the virus. Barnyardgrass is among the more suitable hosts for both virus and mites, but fortunately it is not that common in wheat fields. In contrast, various foxtails, although a rather poor host, could be an important disease reservoir simply because of their abundance. These grasses may play an important role in allowing the mites and virus to survive during the summer months particularly in the absence of volunteer wheat.

The K-State Research and Extension publication, MF3383 – Wheat Streak Mosaic, includes information about grassy weed hosts of the mite and virus, and the contribution of these hosts to the risk of severe wheat streak mosaic infections. Take note of significant stands of these grasses in marginal areas and control them as you would volunteer wheat.

If volunteer wheat and other hosts are not controlled throughout the summer and are infested with wheat curl mites, the mites will survive until fall and could infest newly planted wheat. Wheat curl mite infestations of wheat often lead to wheat streak mosaic infections (Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2. Volunteer wheat on the edges of a sunflower field were infested with wheat curl mites and caused a wheat streak mosaic infection in the adjacent wheat crop that fall. Photo by Stu Duncan, K-State Research and Extension.

Figure 3. Close-up of wheat showing symptoms of a wheat streak mosaic virus infection in the fall. Photo by Jeanne Falk Jones, K-State Research and Extension.

Genetic resistance to wheat streak mosaic can also reduce the risk of severe disease problems. There are currently a few varieties adapted to Kansas that have wheat streak mosaic resistance, including KS Dallas (red), Guardian (red), Oakley CL (red), Joe (white), and Clara CL. All of these varieties have the same resistance source (WSM2). This resistance helps, but does have some serious limitations.  For example, this resistance is effective against wheat streak mosaic but does not cover triticum mosaic or high plains (two other viral diseases also spread by the wheat curl mites). The resistance conferred by WSM2 is also temperature sensitive and is much less effective at high temperatures, although the resistance in KS Dallas seem to endure greater temperatures before breaking down.  If wheat is planted early for grazing or if high temperatures persist into October, the resistance is much less effective. KS Silverado (white) also has temperature sensitive resistance to wheat streak mosaic, although from a different source other than WSM2.

In addition, there are a handful of varieties with resistance to the wheat curl mite, including TAM 112, Byrd, Avery, Langin, KS Western Star, Whistler, Canvas, Guardian, Crescent AX, Incline AX, Fortify SF, TAM 115, TAM 204, and T158. These varieties are actually susceptible to the viral diseases, but they generally slow the development of the mite populations in the fall.  This resistance can help reduce the risk of severe disease but will not provide enough protection if wheat is planted in close proximity to volunteer wheat or other hosts infested with large populations of the curl mites and virus.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Registration is now open for a webinar that will help Kansas beef cattle producers prepare to manage and reduce the impacts of drought and reduced forage availability on cow herds.

The webinar will be hosted by the Kansas State University Department of Animal Sciences and Industry and K-State Research and Extension via Zoom on Thursday, July 9, at noon (CDT).

“As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail,” said K-State beef specialist Sandy Johnson. “This webinar is being conducted to help cow-calf producers evaluate the options they have to make strategic adjustments in response to reduced forage availability. We want producers to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that may arise given current resources, markets and weather.”

The program features strategic reduction of grazing pressure, drought supplementation of cows, early weaned calf nutrition and management, and calf health considerations, presented by members of the K-State beef extension team.

Register for the webinar online at https://tinyurl.com/KSUBeef-Drought-Preparedness or at www.KSUBeef.org. For questions about the event or to register, contact Lois Schreiner, lschrein@ksu.edu, or 785-532-1267.