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ND farmer named co-chair

ROLLA, N.D. — Doyle Lentz knows all too well how much damage scab can do to small grains. Now, he's a national leader in the fight against the devastating crop disease.

"It first affected my farm in the early 1990s; that's what got me involved. And though we've made a lot of progress, especially in wheat, there's more work to be done," he says,

Lentz, a Rolla, N.D., barley farmer, is the new farmer co-chairman of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. He succeeds Art Brandli, a retired Warroad, Minn., farmer, who had held the position since 2008.

Dave Van Sanford, University of Kentucky wheat breeder, is research co-chair.

The Scab Initiative, founded in 1998 and consisting of scientists and farmers from around the country, works to reduce the harm from scab, a fungal disease also known as Fusarium head blight. Scab has hurt quality and yields in wheat and barley in at least 18 states, doing at least $3 billion in damage since 1990, according to the organization's website.

Lentz says he and other small grain farmers from North Dakota and Minnesota first sought extra federal funding to combat scab when the disease began hammering their crops in the early 1990s. Today, researchers from 29 universities tap federal funds to study ways to fight the disease.

New scab-resistant wheat varieties have helped reduce damage to that crop. But coming up with new scab-resistant barley varieties is more challenging. "You're trying to get the (barley) quality just right with some resistance," he says. "We've had only moderate success."

Even so, "We're getting the pieces (with barley) out there," he says. "Now it's more the question of putting the puzzle together."

Scab appears to be easier to control in two-row barley than in six-row barley, so two-row varieties might become more common, he says.

Other steps, including increased knowledge of fungicides and fungicide application, "have really helped as a whole growing small grains," he says.

"It's a little bit over a farm boy's head," Lentz says of the research, noting farmers are directly involved with how the research funding is allocated. When the Scab Initiative was created, it was structured to have a farmer co-chair and scientist co-chair.

2017 considerations

For the 2017 growing season, later application and double application of fungicides might be something for producers to consider if it works into their budget, he says.

Lentz was named to a four-year term as co-chair of the Scab Initiative. In the past, co-chairs often serve more than one term, and he could end up doing so, too, he says.

Through the years, Lentz has been a leader in a number of commodity and agricultural organizations. His concern over scab and initial involvement with the Scab Initiative "is what got me started with public service, if you will. It's probably what I'll retire with," he says.

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