Locally grown grains, such as wheat and barley, are in high demand in the Northeast for both livestock feed and human consumption. One major challenge that grain growers encounter is infection by fungal diseases, such as loose smut and the infection of Fusarium head blight (FHB). Loose smut appears on grains as “smutted grain heads”, which are filled with spores that appear black or brown. The spore masses replace the grain heads, so that fewer or no viable kernels are left for harvest. Smutted heads are caused by the fungal pathogen genus Ustilago. Ustilago nuda commonly infects barley, while Ustilago tritici infects wheat. Uncontrolled blights of loose smut not only reduce yield and grain quality but have the potential to wipe out an entire grain crop. In the U.S., seed-borne pathogens are often managed with fungicides, which presents a challenge to organic systems, as organic farmers cannot use conventional fungicides in their practices, but still need successful methods of preventing pathogens that commonly infect grains. Alternatives to fungicides include organic seed amendments and aerated steam treatments. Aerated steam treatments have been used to disinfect contaminated grain to mitigate cereal seed-borne diseases and fungi. The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crop and Soils (NWCS) Program conducted a trial consisting of steam treated and untreated Prosper spring wheat and Robust 6-row barley to evaluate the effect of steam treatment on grain health, yield, and quality.


Vermont, University of Vermont, steam treated grains, grains

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