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Crop-Eating Mold Can Take Hold Of Northwest Wheat After 100 Days Of Snow

Tim Murray
Washington State University
Snow mold starts to damage winter wheat after about 100 days of snow cover.

During winter’s coldest months, snow can protect winter wheat like a blanket on a bed. But if it hangs around too long it can cause problems.

Eastern Washington and Oregon are at nearly 100 days of snow. And that’s the mark when dreaded snow mold starts winning against the wheat. Snow mold are fungi that come in deadly pink or speckled grey. And they form a spidery web under the snow -- eating any green in sight.

Tim Murray is with Washington State University. He’s been studying snow mold off and on for 40 years.

“It takes about 100 days or so before they’re able to grow enough to cause damage to the wheat plant,” Murray said. “The longer the snow cover stays beyond 100 days the greater the damage potential is.”

Murray said that if the snow melts off pretty quickly now, the snow mold might only be a problem in spots. But if the snow stays for several more weeks, he expects more trouble for farmers. 

Many farmers are starting to plant new wheat varieties that are resistant to snow mold.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.