Pulling the Fungicide Trigger

July 11, 2018

Every year as we find ourselves at pollination time, there is always a discussion going on about fungicide. I have found that when it comes to fungicide, there are three groups out there that we all fall into. The disciples of fungicide, or the grower that does it every year, no matter what. The apprehensive user, or the grower that toils with the decision every year as they look at budgets and commodity prices. And of course, the skeptical, who have not tried, or not had the success they expected in the past with fungicide, so they are not believers in the process. Given the conditions that we have had this year to date, especially in the last month or so, I think a convincing case can be made to look into fungicide applications this year.

When it comes to the application of fungicide, we are trying to manage two factors that are in play in our fields. The first is plant health side. We have learned a lot in the last ten years about how different hybrids respond to fungicide applications from a plant health standpoint. Keeping that plant green and healthy into the fall can have huge benefits for certain hybrids. Of course, this plant health standpoint comes into play when we are dealt a hand like in the fall of 2017. We saw a tremendous amount of damage from wind last fall, but there is little doubt that having a fungicide on the right hybrids made a huge difference in standability and ear loss.

We have more resources at our disposal now than ever before that help us evaluate how this plant health application of fungicide will affect different hybrids, and when to apply fungicide to from a plant health standpoint. Many companies’ seed catalogs have this information in them. But as an Agronomist, I have access to other tools like R7 from Winfield. This tool lets me look at the data from their Answer Plots over the last few years and view how hybrids have responded to nutrients and fungicide in their trials. Your Trusted Advisor at CVA has access to this tool and can quickly look up your hybrids to help you evaluate what might have the best potential to give you the ROI you are looking for from a fungicide application this year.

The plant health aspect has been the foundation for our disciples and even the apprehensive users of fungicide in the past, and for good reason. But, I realize that isn’t always a compelling enough case for everyone. When planning crop budgets and deciding where to allocate investments this year, the fungicide application may have gotten put on the back burner for some of you, and I fully understand why. My intention today is not to try to sway your thinking just from a plant health side but to also address the other side of a fungicide application, and that is disease pressure.

We never know for sure when we will have disease affect our plant, but we do know what it takes to make that happen. It is called the disease triangle; a susceptible host, a pathogen, and favorable conditions. From a modeling standpoint, we can look at factors around the weather and understand what is favorable for disease formation. Things like wet soils, warm nights, high humidity, and so on are good indicators. Many of those are present this year. We have many areas that have had saturated soils and warm temperatures. Even in the hills, I have seen some fields that have algae growing on the soil surface. We know we have had warm nights and good heat. Almost everywhere we go the GDD’s are 10-20% above the 30-year average.

When it comes to a pathogen that is always a harder one to verify. Scouting efforts across the state are seeing diseases like Gray Leaf Spot show up already. The point is that good old-fashioned scouting still plays a critical role in this, as it is the best and most reliable way to verify the pathogen. Finally, we have a susceptible host. Many of us have plants that have been damaged by wind or hail in the past few weeks. With the warm temperatures, insect damage is also a distinct possibility this season. Any tissue damage is all we need for everything to come together for the disease to become not only present but prevalent.

So for those of you that are on the fence every year about the investment in fungicide for some of your acres, I think that we can look at the potential for disease right now and use what we know to tip the scale. Is disease a certainty this season; no, but what is certain in Agriculture? If we look at the information that we have in front of us right now, I believe we “check enough boxes” to warrant a very serious discussion about fungicide right now for those of you who are calculated in your decision process. This is a conversation that you and your Agronomist need to have sooner than later, as it has the potential to be tremendously impactful on your bottom line this season.
by Keith Byerly
Posted: 7/11/2018 11:31:32 AM by | with 0 comments