Our stakeholder-oriented research program focuses on developing applicable and successful disease management strategies. We aim to develop both short-term tactics to reduce disease severity and mitigate yield losses, as well as mid- and long-term tactics that aim to change production conditions in order to reduce disease pressure and facilitate sustainable and economic crop production in Montana.

This page contains the latest Extension Field Crop Pathology research projects.  For further details about a specific study, contact Montana State University Extension Research Associate Uta McKelvy.

Decorative photo of a tripod in a field with attached solar panel and anemometer

A solar-powered spore trapping device sits in a field of young winter wheat plants.  Larger image (112KB).

National Predictive Modeling Tool Initiative for Wheat in Montana

Collaborators: Uta McKelvy, Mary Burrows (MSU). Graduate student: Karl Everet Owen.

This project increases our understanding of the role of presence and abundance of pathogen inoculum, host susceptibility, and weather conditions in foliar disease risk. The focus is on winter wheat. Our research data will be used to develop and improve predictive models for foliar diseases of wheat, which will support growers in making effective and economic disease management decisions. Project work started in October 2021. We are conducting field experiments at MSU research farms and observation studies in grower fields.

The National Predictive Modeling Tool Initiative is a multi-state, multi-year collaborative project that focuses on wheat and other crops of economic importance to U.S. agriculture.


Decorative photo of a man tending to a field of grass

Spring wheat field inspection.

Assessing Pathogen Inoculum Density and Foliar and Head Disease Development in Dryland and Irrigated Spring Wheat Fields

Collaborators: Uta McKelvy, Mary Burrows (MSU). Graduate student: Karl Everet Owen.

This project assesses pathogen presence and abundance, onset, and development of foliar and rust diseases, and head scab in irrigated compared to dryland spring wheat fields. We will gather information on disease pressure in local production systems and use it to develop management recommendations specific to Montana spring wheat production conditions. The project compliments and expands the objectives of our National Predictive Modeling Tool Initiative research (see above) by focusing on Montana-relevant production practices. 

This project is funded by the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.


Decorative photo of small fields that have been split into plots

View of winter wheat research plots, with three solar-powered spore traps and one windsock spore trap positioned in the field.  Larger image (120KB).

Comparing Active and Passive Spore Samplers for Their Efficacy in Capturing Airborne Spores of Important Fungal Pathogens in the Montana Environment

Collaborators:Uta McKelvy (MSU). Graduate student: Karl Everet Owen.

In this project we compare the performance of different spore samplers in capturing fungal wheat pathogens and assess their suitability for use in the Montana environment. The spore samplers in this study range from cost-effective, self-built models to high-value, manufactured types. We will also develop molecular tools for the identification and quantification of pathogen spores in our laboratory.

This project is funded by the MSU College of Agriculture Minigrant.


Photo of 2 people wearing face masks and gloves, spraying small plants in a fieldClose-up photo of a plant in a wheat field

Developing New Wheat Germplasm With Disease and Mite Resistance

Collaborators: Mary Burrows, Phil Bruckner, Jason Cook, Uta McKelvy (MSU).  Graduate student: Paul Lorenzo.

Wheat streak mosaic, caused by wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV), is an important viral disease threatening winter wheat production in Montana and the Great Plains. Variety selection can play an important role in reducing losses due to the virus. In this project we screen recently developed MSU breeding lines for susceptibility to WSMV and its virus vector, the wheat curl mite. 

Left photo: Closeup of a wheat plant with yellow striping and mosiac patterns.  Larger image (105KB).
Right photo: Specialists inoculate young wheat plants with a pressure spray gun. Larger image (65KB)

This project is funded by the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.



Photo of two people tending plants in a sunny fieldPhoto of rows of green lentil plants in a field

Building a Better Lentil From the Ground Up

Collaborators:Mary Burrows, Perry Miller from MSU, along with Clarice Coyne, Michael Grusak, Rebecca McGee, and Lyndon Porter from the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Julie Pasche from North Dakota State University (NDSU). Graduate students at MSU: Collins Bugingo, Sydney Atencio.

Lentil is a uniquely suited and profitable rotational crop within the dryland wheat systems of the northern Great Plains and Pacific Northwest. However, root rot is a major threat to the lentil industry and there are few effective management options. One of the objectives of this project is to discover the major Fusarium spp. causing root rot in lentil, explore their interactions and the role of seed transmission in establishment and spread of the disease. More information on this project can be found here.

Left photo: Rows of green lentils.
Right photo: Specialists collect plants for analysis. Larger image (70KB).

This project is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA).


Photo of 6 plants, showing the progression of disease from one plant to the next

The two left-most plants are healthy, with large root balls and white stems. The four smaller plants on the right are infected with root rot and possess thinner, darker, root structures.  Larger image (152KB).

Root Rot Mitigation in Pulse Crops

Collaborators: Mary Burrows, Monica Brelsford (MSU). Graduate student: Carmen Murphy

Aphanomyces root rot, caused by Aphanomyces euteiches, has become problematic in pea and lentil fields in Montana. This research focuses on the spatial distribution of the pathogen in Montana fields, crop sequences for reducing inoculum of the pathogen, and pH conditions conducive for the disease. 

This project is funded by the Montana Specialty Crop Block Grant.


Further Information

Contact Uta McKelvy for more information about the research projects at MSU Extension Field Crop Pathology and the McKelvy Lab.

For general plant disease inquiries and diagnosis, contact the Schutter Diagnostic Lab.


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