As you make decisions for your winter small grains, take actions that will enhance your crop's health from establishment through harvest. First, be sure to ask your dealer about lines with genetic resistance to some of our important diseases. Most seed companies have offerings that include some level of resistance against powdery mildew, scab, and others. This should be your first consideration in the fight against small grain diseases. This is absolutely critical when it comes to managing head scab, as the best way to get satisfactory control of scab and toxin is to combine the use of a resistant to moderately resistant variety with proper fungicide application.
So how do you find out this information apart from a seed company? Visit the small grain variety trials reports that make the most sense for your area. Start with the Penn State Winter Wheat and Barley Variety Trials data. This will help you begin the selection process based on yield and quality, but to get more information about disease ratings, you'll need to seek information from one of the trials of a neighboring state that rates for powdery mildew, scab, or DON (vomitoxin). In northern PA, you'll want to check out the trials done by Cornell or in Ontario. If your climate is more like the mid-Atlantic, browse the material from Maryland and Virginia.
Second, take care that the seed you select is clean, undamaged, certified seed. If you choose to use stored seed, avoid seed lots that have not been thoroughly cleaned and those from fields with a history of glume blotch, smut, or scab. Low test-weights, discoloration and poor germination rates are also causes for concern.
Thirdly, if you are using saved seed, give some thought to fungicidal treatments for your seed. These treatments do a good job against pathogens that can be carried over on or in seed like the bunts and smuts, glume blotch and scab. Treatments are also effective at reducing stand and yield loss from seed rots and early season diseases like those caused by Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia. This can be especially important if planting is delayed and the seed bed is cool and wet. Fungicidal treatments will not provide control of bacterial diseases or viruses. Seed treatment will also not protect your wheat and barley from the head scab that occurs in the spring, it only provides protection for the damping off that may occur at germination as the result of planting some scabby seed. Seed treatment will not make up for bin-run seed quality issues, although it may help a bit. It is best to select multiple seed treatments to provide activity against the range of pathogens and added protection from insects.