An wheat killer is showing up in south Georgia fields earlier than usual.
The mild winter and abundance of rain created perfect conditions for wheat rust.
And farmers are now forced with the decision to spray early or wait it out.
An example of wheat rust was discovered Tuesday in a Thomas County field.
"This is a little earlier than we would normally see rust, but the conditions are just favorable. We've had kind of a mild winter and with the way diseases work, the host is there," said Thomas County Extension Agent Andrew Sawyer.
Wheat rust is not uncommon in south Georgia, but it is uncommon to see it this early.
And now farmers have to decide whether to shell out the cash for the fungicide or to wait and see.
"If we can wait until it begins to head out, then we will. But because of the way the rust spreads and how quickly it does, we may be forced to go ahead and put out a fungicide," said Sawyer.
Growers say more than $5 billion worth of wheat is lost worldwide each year because of rust.
"It has a complex life cycle and with different alternate hosts. It has different spore stages. And for those reasons it can become an epidemic really fast," said Sawyer.
There are currently numerous physiological races of wheat rust, with new races surfacing every day because of their ability to mutate and sexually recombine.
Wheat rust can be recognized by small brown pustules developing on the leaf blades.