UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA, US — The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the US Department of Agriculture has awarded Paul Esker $455,000 to support a five-year integrated research and extension project designed to improve management recommendations for wheat. Esker is a plant pathologist in Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Growers are challenged by the complexity of decisions that are needed for effective wheat disease management,” Esker said. “Through our work, we aspire to create resources that will aid them when making economically and environmentally sound decisions so they can improve the health and quality of their wheat and increase profitability.”

As part of his research, Esker and his research team plan to develop a decision-support platform for wheat disease management that integrates wheat market class, underlying disease risk and best management recommendations. The researchers will then use the platform to obtain user-defined data on wheat production practices. Esker said the researchers will take that data and study patterns that explain the variation in responses at different spatial scales.

“We will collaborate with stakeholders to develop training programs in which individual growers can gain experience with different disease management scenarios,” he said. “We expect that the technology developed in this project can be readily applied to other small grains as well.”

Esker said Penn State University is collaborating on the project with researchers from Kansas State University, North Carolina State University and The Ohio State University.