August 12, 2004
Billions of Dollars Lost to Scab According to NDSU Study
North Dakota’s economy lost billions of dollars over an eight year period because of fusarium head blight, or scab, according to a study by researchers at North Dakota State University. Producer and main street losses amounted to almost 3.5 billion from 1993 to 2001. In Minnesota, the loss to the state’s economy was estimated at $1.8 billion during this time.
Impacts from scab affect not only producers, but other areas of the economy as well. A substantial portion of the impacts affect the businesses that are dependent upon revenues from crop sales. “For every $1 dollar of scab losses incurred by the producer, $2.08 in losses are incurred in other areas of rural and state economies,” says William Nganje, NDSU agricultural economist and one author of the study.
“Losses have been especially severe in the spring wheat and barley regions,” according to Nganje. “Soft red winter wheat producers have also experienced major outbreaks.” Three wheat classes, malting and feed barley were included nine-state study.
Scab occurs in many regions of the northern Great Plains that are not only reliant on agriculture, but are predominately dependent upon small grain production. “Scab is having an extenuating effect in those areas,” Nganje says. “Also, income losses from scab are occurring during periods of depressed farm prices and low net farm income.”
In the study, the combined direct and secondary economic losses for all crops in the nine states were estimated at $7.7 billion. North Dakota had the largest percentage of those losses at 45 percent. Losses in other states in the study were South Dakota ($620 million), Ohio ($606 million), Illinois ($514 million), Missouri ($297 million), Indiana ($133 million) and Kentucky ($69 million).
“The size of the problem suggests that continued research in developing scab resistant varieties is warranted,” Nganje says. NDSU research on scab resistant wheat varieties began in the mid-1980’s after NDSU plant pathologists Robert Stack and Marcia McMullen observed scab symptoms in commercial fields while conducting root rot surveys.
One outcome of NDSU scab research is the 2000 release of Alsen wheat. Alsen, in field trials conducted across the state at NDSU Research Extension Centers, has demonstrated a level of resistance to scab better than virtually all commercial varieties currently available. Alsen is the dominant hard red spring wheat variety grown in North Dakota, according to a 2004 wheat variety survey conducted by the North Dakota Wheat Commission.
Nganje, along with Simeon Kaitibie, William Wilson, Larry Leistritz and Dean Bangsund, with the NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, authored the study.