By Lana Robinson
Karnal bunt is no longer the "kiss of death" for some San Saba and McCulloch County wheat farmers. Significant changes in regulations, which became final March 24, 2004, resulted in the removal of one field in northwestern San Saba County, as well as the buffer zone associated with this field, from all Karnal bunt regulations. This 36 square mile buffer zone includes approximately 23,040 acres in San Saba and McCulloch counties.
Karnal bunt, also known as partial bunt, is caused by the fungus Tilletia indica. It is a member of the smut fungi. This fungus infects common wheat, durum wheat, and triticale. Karnal bunt cuts crop yields and discolors flour.
According to George Caldwell, Texas Farm Bureau's associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities, the new regs give producers guidelines for working their way out of the quarantine situation through Best Management Practices (BMPs).
"Originally, if the test went positive, you were basically positive forever," said Caldwell. "Changes in the regulations are a big step in the right direction. Through proper management, the producer can now see a light at the end of the tunnel."
George Nash, USDA/APHIS-PPQ state operations support officer, said significant changes are embodied in the new Karnal bunt regulations. Foremost among them is the change that says fields which have tested positive for Karnal bunt can now be released after five years under the following conditions: fields must be tilled at least once annually for five years; fields are tilled and planted with non- host crops (any crop except wheat or triticale) for five years; fields are tilled and planted with host crops (wheat or triticale) which test negative for five years; and fields are permanently removed from agriculture production.
"It is important to remember that fallow fields and no-till crop production will not meet the above conditions for release," Nash noted.
Another major change is the fact that manure is no longer regulated for Karnal bunt, he said.
"Also, wheat seed produced in the Karnal bunt regulated area which tests negative for all life stages of Karnal bunt can now be sold anywhere in the United States without treatment," said Nash.
Finally, milling by-products are no longer regulated for Karnal bunt.
An additional 14 fields in San Saba County have been removed from Karnal bunt positive status, but remain in the Karnal bunt regulated area and are still subject to testing at the time of harvest. But the good news is that wheat grain which tests negative from these 14 fields can now enter export markets without restrictions, Nash said.
In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is amending its Karnal bunt regulations to provide compensation to custom harvesters for losses incurred during the 2000-2001 crop season in four Texas counties regulated for Karnal bunt.
This compensation is necessary to reduce the economic burden imposed by these regulations. This amendment will encourage affected individuals to participate and cooperate in APHIS' efforts to contain and reduce the presence of Karnal bunt in the United States.
This interim rule appeared in the May 5 Federal Register and became effective upon publication. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register and related information are available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html .
Consideration will be given to comments received on or before July 6. Comments can be submitted by postal mail, commercial delivery or by e-mail. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 03-052-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238 or e-mail comments to email@example.com. E-mail comments must be contained in the body of the message; do not send attached files. Please include your name and address in the message and type "Docket No. 03-052-1" on the subject line. To submit comments online, go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for locating this docket and submitting comments.
Comments can be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call (202) 690-2817.