Survival and inoculum production of Gibberella zeae (Schwein.) Fetch (anamorph Fusarium graminearum (Schwabe)), the causal agent of Fusarium head blight of wheat and barley, was related to the rate of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) residue decomposition. Infested wheat residue, comprising intact nodes, internodes, and leaf sheaths, was placed in fiberglass mesh bags on the soil surface and at 7.5- to 10-cm and 15- to 20-cm depths in chisel-plowed plots and 15 to 20 cm deep in moldboard-plowed plots in October 1997. Residue was sampled monthly from April through November during 1998 and every 2 months through April to October 1999. Buried residue decomposed faster than residue placed on the soil surface. Less than 2% of the dry-matter residue remained in buried treatments after 24 months in the field, while 25% of the residue remained in the soil-surface treatment. Survival of G. zeae on node tissues was inversely related to the residue decomposition rate. Surface residue provided a substrate for G. zeae for a longer period of time than buried residue. Twenty-four months after the initiation of the trial, the level of colonization of nodes in buried residue was half the level of colonization of residue on the soil surface. Colonization of node tissues by G. zeae decreased over time, but increased for other Fusarium spp. Ascospores of G. zeae were still produced on residue pieces after 23 months, and these spores were capable of inducing disease. Data from this research may assist in developing effective management strategies for residues infested with G. zeae.
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