Very soon many Oklahoma wheat growers will begin early planting. This is so that there will be wheat pasture in the fall.

But grazing livestock aren’t the only ones eager to get at that forage.

Bob Hunger is the extension wheat pathologist with Oklahoma State University.

“The biggest concern with that early planting date,” Hunger said. “It facilitates the opportunity for there to be wheat streak mosaic virus.”

Wheat streak mosaic virus can be identified by yellow streaks on plant leaves. If infected early, the wheat plant will most likely wither and die. If infected later in the growth cycle, the wheat plant will exhibit stunted growth.

According to Hunger, “It’s transmitted by a little arthropod called the wheat curl mite and survives on lots of different grassy weeds but also especially on volunteer wheat that comes up in the field following the harvest from the previous season.”

Volunteer wheat is the term used to describe wheat plants that sprout up following harvest.

Volunteer wheat is often called a “green bridge” because it allows disease-carrying pests like the wheat curl mite to move from one field to another.

“If you have a lot of volunteer wheat come up in your field after harvest,” Hunger said. “The mites will continue to live on that volunteer wheat and continue to lay eggs, increasing their population and spreading the wheat streak mosaic virus. The key part to controlling wheat streak mosaic virus is breaking that green bridge. That means making sure any grassy weeds and volunteer wheat are completely dead for at least two weeks before planting in the fall.”

He said that the wheat curl mite has a very short lifespan, only about 10 days to two weeks.

Wheat Squared is sponsored by the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Genetics, Inc. Find out more at

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