Infection of wheat seeds with Fusarium spp. causes seedling blight. As a result of this disease, fields sown with infected seeds show a reduced plant density. This is especially a problem in organic agriculture, for which currently no practical seed disinfection methods are available. In the present project we investigated whether spring wheat cultivars differ in sensitivity to seedling blight, whether the possible differences could be linked to cultivar differences in early growth rates, and what size the delay in canopy closure resulting from the plant reductions was. Six spring wheat cultivars (Melon, Lavett, SW Kungsjet, Epos, Pasteur, Thasos), containing three infection levels (averages 5, 15 and 27%) of Fusarium culmorum were obtained and were sown in a field experiment in 2006 in 4 repetitions. Measurements included percentage of emergence, light interception and above ground dry matter to calculate relative growth rates. Infection of seeds with F. culmorum resulted in lower plant densities and a delay in time to 10% light interception of up to 5 days. First preliminary results also show that cultivars differ for sensitivity to seedling blight, and that cultivars with higher early growth rates appeared to be less sensitive to seedling blight, with the exception of cultivar Thasos. If future experiments confirm this relation, it could be used to select cultivars which are more resistant to seedling blight
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