Diseases are Always Evolving
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Mark Lundy is a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist in grain cropping systems at UC Davis. Lundy runs trials on grain crops because California is such a diverse environment and there are different conditions from year to year so it’s important to be consistent in measuring yield and crop quality, grain diseases, and agronomic traits on small grains.
Lundy’s work is predominantly on California wheat, but there are many trials on barley.
“Improved varieties have been the mainstay of my work,” Lundy said. “I came at it from a water and nitrogen management background, and one of our goals is trying to disentangle the environment that you can’t control from the environment that you can control. But this is the second year where we have some of those gradients in there so we are trying to maintain the attributes we have, while also trying to add some value.”
And diseases have been closely monitored within the trial system, noted Lundy.
“We do try to keep track of disease, and so when there are diseases of concern such as stripe rust, which was historically a big problem for growers, it has been successfully addressed through breeding,” he said.
The breeding is spearheaded by Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor at UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences working on wheat genes.
“Stripe rust is still something we have to keep an eye on, and it’s certainly a disease that is always evolving,” Lundy said. “And because resistance is not permanent, we’re always looking for the big diseases that can be detrimental to the production system, such as stripe rust.”
“We also keeping track of leaf rust,” Lundy said. “I’m not a pathologist by training, so I’ve been learning on the job, and I’m grateful to the former UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Lee Jackson, who was a pathologist. He created a nice knowledge base for us to build on.”