Garden Word of the Day
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So what in the world is karnal bunt? And why do we care?
Most people are not growing wheat. But you could if you wanted to. I urge you to try a small patch. If nothing else, you can tell people you have a wheat field - even if it is only a four-foot square! The other reason for learning about karnal bunt is to have a greater appreciation for those farmers who feed the world and a better understanding of what they are up against. And how many of your friends have ever heard of karnal bunt? For the record, the name karnal is not related to its character. Instead, it is from Karnal, India.
Karnal bunt came to the U.S. from Mexico on infected grain in 1996. Karnal bunt is currently found in 18 midwest U.S. states, down from 23 states in 2015. This drop in infection rates is due to state and federal quarantines.
So what is karnal bunt?
Karnal bunt is a smut fungus that attacks wheat, durum wheat, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye commonly fed to animals). The karnal bunt fungus (Tilletia indica) enters individual seeds (not the entire seed head) and consumes the endosperm. The frass they leave behind smells like rotten fish, leaving the kernels inedible. Despite the smell, U.S. regulations allow wheat for human consumption to contain up to 3% bunted kernels.
This fungus can spread through physical contact with infected seeds, farming equipment, tools, and clothing. It can also spread by the wind. Fungicides sprayed on young leaves can help prevent the spread of this disease. Karnal bunt is not a threat to your garden. I just thought the name was too fun not to share.
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