Also known as Fusarium foot rot, dry and foot rot is a soilborne disease that can survive and multiply on crop residues. The occurrence of dryland foot rot has increased with reduced tillage practices. Hosts of dryland foot rot include many cereals, especially barley, and grasses. The primary causes of this disease are the fungi Fusarium culmorum and F. graminearum. F. culmorum the northern Great Plains and interior northwest, while F. graminearum is more important in the southern Great Plains. Dry and foot rot infects the roots and crowns of wheat plants and is more prevalent in loose, dry soil. Areas with low annual precipitation (below 16-18 inches) are susceptible to the disease. Stress, including drought, can increase the damage. Associated with areas of high fall soil temperatures and low fall soil moisture, dryland foot root is most common in dryland winter wheat and no-till spring cereals. Spring wheat usually is not affected. Stressed or droughty areas, such as hilltops, sandy areas, slopes, and ridges,tend to experience the most severe damage.
In the late fall and early spring, discolored root and crown tissue, appearing brown to reddish-brown and rotted, is the most apparent sign. The stem may also be brown to reddish-brown several nodes up the plant (about 4 to 5 inches). During the final stages of development water stress due to root damage causes the plant to ripen prematurely resulting in white heads. Heads may either be void of kernels or contain shriveled kernels.