Virus costs Kansas farmers $77 million

Volunteer wheat

LAKIN, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas wheat farmers are focusing on trying to control the spread of the wheat streak mosaic virus.

“These little guys is what cost Kansas wheat farmers almost 80 million dollars this year,” said farmer Kyler Millershaski, inspecting the roots of volunteer wheat.

It’s a problem wheat farmers face all the time. Nearly half of Millershaski’s winter wheat fields were hit with the virus.

“All the green stuff out here,” he said, gesturing towards a field, “that’s volunteer wheat.”

Volunteer wheat grows after a harvest and helps keep wheat streak mosaic virus alive.

“We call it the green bridge because it’s how the virus gets transmitted from one year to the next,” said Millershaski. “Let’s say if a field has mosaic, there’s going to be some insects that carry that virus.”

According to the Kansas Wheat Commission,, the virus cost Kansas farmers about $77 million this year alone. They say the best way to prevent the virus is to control volunteer wheat two weeks before planting.

“We actually sprayed this field about a week ago to kill the volunteer,” said Millershaski, “and we’ve had so much rain lately that we’ve had another flush of volunteer come up.”

Fall conditions are, unfortunately, perfect to help the virus spread, and with all the recent rain, it’s has made managing volunteer wheat a challenge.

“If you’re used to just maybe blading your field once or twice a summer, you might have to do it four or five times a summer,” advised the Lakin farmer.

One issue is that even the most responsible farmer is vulnerable if neighboring farms aren’t as careful.

“In a perfect world,” he said, “everybody would have their volunteer controlled by the first of September, and then you need to wait about two weeks for those insects to leave the area or die off before you start planting.”

According to the Kansas Wheat Commission, western Kansas endured the worst of the virus. Wheat fields in Finney, Kearny, Wichita, Greeley, Hamilton, and Lane counties were hit the hardest.

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