Background: Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) has become an emerging technology for the rapid, efficient functional genomic screening of monocot and dicot species. The barley stripe mosaic virus (BSMV) has been described as an effective VIGS vehicle for the evaluation of genes involved in wheat and barley phytopathogenesis; however, these studies have been obscured by BSMV-induced phenotypes and defense responses. The utility of BSMV VIGS may be improved using a BSMV genetic background which is more tolerable to the host plant especially upon secondary infection of highly aggressive, necrotrophic pathogens such as Fusarium graminearum. Results: BSMV-induced VIGS in Triticum aestivum (bread wheat) cv. 'Fielder' was assessed for the study of wheat genes putatively related to Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), the necrotrophism of wheat and other cereals by F. graminearum. Due to the lack of 'Fielder' spike viability and increased accumulation of Fusarium-derived deoxynivalenol contamination upon co-infection of BSMV and FHB, an attenuated BSMV construct was generated by the addition of a glycine-rich, C-terminal peptide to the BSMV γ b protein. This attenuated BSMV effectively silenced target wheat genes while limiting disease severity, deoxynivalenol contamination, and yield loss upon Fusarium co-infection compared to the original BSMV construct. The attenuated BSMV-infected tissue exhibited reduced abscisic, jasmonic, and salicylic acid defense phytohormone accumulation upon secondary Fusarium infection. Finally, the attenuated BSMV was used to investigate the role of the salicylic acid-responsive pathogenesis-related 1 in response to FHB. Conclusions: The use of an attenuated BSMV may be advantageous in characterizing wheat genes involved in phytopathogenesis, including Fusarium necrotrophism, where minimal viral background effects on defense are required. Additionally, the attenuated BSMV elicits reduced defense hormone accumulation, suggesting that this genotype may have applications for the investigation of phytohormone-related signaling, developmental responses, and pathogen defense.