Why It's Important to Monitor Crop Diseases at Harvest

Why It's Important to Monitor Crop Diseases at Harvest

It’s time to harvest the crops and put the 2015 season in the books. Besides physically harvesting the grain, it’s equally important to assess any diseases that may be present in your corn or soybean fields, according to Damon Smith, Extension field crops pathologist with the University of Wisconsin.

These assessments aren’t being made in order to make plans for in-field management, but to improve the quality of grain that is harvested and allow for some educated decision-making for 2016.

In corn, that means a pre-harvest walk through the field to look for Anthracnose and Gibberella stalk rots, Smith says. Squeeze stalks and cut a few stalks from different areas of the field to inspect the severity of disease. More severely rotted stalks are more likely to lodge, he says.

“Therefore, timely harvest is important,” he says. “Growers should target harvesting of fields with severe stalk rot before fields that have less stalk rot to minimize harvest losses due to lodging.”

Also place harvest priority on fields that have high levels of ear rot, Smith adds. This will help minimize mycotoxin accumulation.

For soybeans, check late-season fields for white mold. This fungus caused sclerotia, which Smith describes as “fungal survival structures that look like rat droppings.” These sclerotia catch in the combine and therefore can be spread to other fields.

“It’s important to harvest non-infested soybean fields first to be sure the combine does not deposit any residual sclerotia in the non-infested fields,” Smith says. He shares more knowledge about white mold in the video below.

Knowing what diseases are prevalent in your corn and soybean fields for 2015 will also help you make decisions for 2016, Smith says.

“While most of the focus during this time of season is on equipment and calibrating yield monitors, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis on any soybean and corn diseases you are seeing now,” he says. “This information will help this winter as you review variety and hybrid trials and make decisions about what you are going to plant in 2016.”

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