By Dennis Christie, agronomist
No matter what crops are in your fields, maintaining plant health should be a top priority to maximize yield potential. Healthy green leaf area helps promote photosynthesis that eventually leads to grain fill. When plant health is compromised, so is yield potential. Here are some tips to help maintain the green in your fields and in your pocket.
Boost your scouting game
Many plant diseases are soilborne, meaning that they start on the ground and make their way up a plant. Unless you’re getting into the plant canopy to look for diseases, you may miss them until it’s too late to take action.
Proper disease identification can be tricky, but it’s a must for choosing the right corrective action. If you have questions, seek the expertise of your trusted agronomic advisor.
Don’t delay action
Is it time to spray a fungicide? To decide, you can start by reviewing the seed hybrid and varieties you’ve planted. If they’re more susceptible to disease, protecting with a fungicide might be the right choice. Other things to consider are current and forecasted weather conditions, and history of disease pressure in the field. Wind-borne diseases like rust can blow up from the south, so be sure to keep an eye on conditions outside of your local area.
The goal is to make sure you’re protecting your most vulnerable crops, especially if disease begins to develop early in the season. Because fungal spores overwinter in soil and crop debris, your corn-on-corn acres are a good place to start when prioritizing fungicide applications.
Fungicide application timing is critical. In general, unless disease starts early on susceptible corn hybrids, it’s best to apply fungicides around the time of tasseling for optimal return on investment. In soybeans, applying fungicide at full flower to first pod (R2 to R3) will likely be the best bet.
Choose the right product
There are many fungicides on the market, but they don’t all work the same way. A strong fungicide delivers multiple modes of action against the diseases you’re targeting. Products like RustEase™, a new fungicide by WinField United, contain two modes of action and are a good option to protect crops against a broad-spectrum of fungal diseases. Review the active ingredients in your products to understand how they move within the plant. Some active ingredients provide some systemic activity, meaning that they can move within the leaf to protect new growth.
To get the most from your fungicide application, consider adding an adjuvant to the tank mix. The right adjuvant can improve deposition, retention and spreading of fungicides on leaves, as well as help product penetrate deeper into the canopy, where many fungal diseases start. You’ll get better plant coverage, which translates into more leaf area protected against disease.
Plan for next year
As the season progresses, keep good records about where you have heavy disease pressure, so it’s fresh in your mind when you start planning for next year’s crop. As you consider seed purchases, think about specific field conditions and the agronomic challenges that could lead to increased disease pressure. For example, rotating crops and tilling to reduce fungal spores in the soil is one change you can make to help alleviate disease risk.
Work with your trusted agronomic advisor to develop a proactive plan to prepare for disease pressure. With smart decision-making and deliberate action, you’ll help ensure your crops stay healthy and maximize yield potential.