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Stay A Step Ahead of Corn Disease

July 15, 2013
By: Ben Potter, Farm Journal Technology Editor
disease management corn college 2013
Tools such as scouting guides, a laptop microscope, hand lenses and more will help make disease scouting more efficient and accurate.   
 
 

Proactive management and a systems approach will deliver the most profitable results.

See a corn disease, spray it with a fungicide. It’s that simple, right? Not necessarily, says Farm Journal associate agronomist Missy Bauer.

"Too often, I feel like when we have a big blow-up of some disease, we tend to be reactive," Bauer says.

A more proactive, systems management approach is a much better way to address disease management, Bauer told a group of more than 100 retailers and consultants at the 2013 Farm Journal Corn College, held in Heyworth, Ill., on July 15.

A proactive approach begins with understanding the components of the disease triangle and the disease cycle, Bauer says.

The disease triangle has three basic components: pathogens, conditions and a host. Disease will only occur with all of these three factors working together, she says.

The disease cycle follows seven basic steps: inoculum produced, dispersal, infection, colonization, symptoms, production of survival structures and survival.

"The good news is, you can interrupt the disease cycle through management practices," Bauer says.

Spraying a fungicide is one obvious solution, but Bauer says four other management practices can have a big impact on disease pressure:

1. Hybrid selection – each hybrid has varying susceptibility for common corn diseases.

2. Weed and insect control – weeds can host certain diseases, and insect feeding can vector certain diseases.

3. Cultural practices like rotation and tillage can affect overwintering populations.

4. Reducing plant stress through plant populations, row spacing and other methods. For example, row spacing can affect humidity levels within the canopy, which in turn alters how well a given disease can thrive.

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