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Energy and Environment

Wheat Fungus Spreads Across The Plains

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A fungus that stunts wheat plants is spreading across the Great Plains, causing big headaches for farmers. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon has more...

It’s called stripe rust, and it loves cool temperatures and wet spring weather. Scott Haley is a plant scientist at Colorado State University.

“If the environment is just right, like it was this year, we can have major epidemics... like we’re having this year," he says.

Haley says rust spores traveled by wind from states like Oklahoma and Texas up to the country’s wheat belt in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. When it takes hold, farmers can lose up to 40 percent of their yield, and that’s if it’s caught quickly.

Haley says this year’s rust outbreak is wide enough it could make a significant dent in the amount of wheat harvested later this summer.