Fungicides Can Boost Health, Reduce Risk

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Frogeye Leaf Spot

It sometimes may feel like a precarious situation when determining how to recommend fungicide investments to your growers. Yet, when you have the best knowledge of industry experts on your side, you can proceed with confidence.

Here’s the advice of several we interviewed.

Retailer Perspectives

“We recommend that growers start by selecting hybrids and varieties with a resistance package to fight off disease,” says Steve Cromley, MFA Inc. senior agronomist. “The next step is to scout fields to determine if diseases are present and at what level. If diseases are present, the consultant and producer can determine if the level of infection and environmental conditions justify a fungicide application.  

Cromley reports that MFA has seen an increase in services tied to disease control, including fungicide applications and sales, as well as consulting services for seed selection and field scouting. Retailers and Certified Crop Advisers play a big role as Midwest growers manage more and more acres.

“In our trade territory the main fungal diseases we fight are grey leaf spot, anthracnose and rust in corn. In soybeans the two main diseases are septoria and frogeye leaf spot. Rarely do we have just one disease in a field,” says Cromley.  

“When scouting fields and determining if a fungicide application need be considered, we look at the cumulative effect of all the diseases present. A single disease by itself may not warrant a fungicide application, but when you add the stress from even low levels of multiple diseases, a fungicide application may be beneficial,” he says.

In South Central Illinois, Regan Wear at the Shipman Elevator Co. shares some lessons learned during the 2010 and 2011 growing season, which earned the co-op the distinction of being named District 6 winner of the Illinois Soy­bean Association Yield Challenge two years in a row.

“We treated our growers’ soybeans with both insecticide and fungicide. Our treatment in 2010 resulted in 12 bushels more per acre. In 2011, we applied our system during the hottest and driest July and August you could imagine,” says Wear. “We came out with similar results that clearly resulted in a 12-bushel per acre yield advantage.”

Wear attributes the yield boost to overall plant health. “We believe in planting beans early so the plants can get into their production cycle prior to heat or drought conditions which may result in stress. Plants stay healthier and do what they naturally need to do. They’re maturing instead of dying.”

Manufacturer Insights

“When growers make the investment in seed genetics, they need to protect that investment with a fungicide,” says Eric Tedford, technical manager for Syngenta. “Several years ago there were relatively few fungicides used in corn. Growers are now using more fungicides in corn and soybeans because they realize their return on investment.”

Tedford explains this trend started with the introduction of the soybean rust pathogen from Asia into Brazil and the U.S. “Although Asian soybean rust has never become a big threat in the U.S., the impending threat of this pathogen that can defoliate a soybean crop in five to seven days opened the doors for development and registration of several new fungicides for corn, soybeans and other crops.”

He points out that many years ago grey leaf spot in corn was labeled “the government’s disease” because it was the result of introducing no-till agriculture. “With no-till agriculture there was plenty of corn stubble left in the field allowing the grey leaf spot pathogen to overwinter.

“IPM is important, too. We really can’t rely on just insecticides and fungicides. With IPM, you’re talking about integrating cultural practices with chemicals, physical devices and genetics, says Tedford. “It’s complicated, but aligning all the pieces will help the grower to make the most profitable ROI.”

For more helpful information, Ted­ford recommends reading “The Seven Wonders of High-Yield Corn Production” as researched by Dr. Fred Below, professor of plant physiology at the University of Illinois.

In 2012 Syngenta will offer Quilt Xcel corn fungicide, a combination of Quadris and Tilt fungicide chemistries, to provide broadspectrum control of corn diseases. The product also helps maximize harvest efficiency and improve yields through greener plants, improved stalk quality, bigger ears, more kernels and complete ear fill.

The company will continue to offer Quadris fungicide to control a broad spectrum of diseases in corn and soybeans.

New for 2012 will be a cereals label for Syngenta Quilt Xcel fungicide which will provide longer-lasting, broadspectrum control of yielding-robbing diseases in wheat, barley and triticale.

“The environment is positive for more use of fungicides. Controlling yield-robbing pests can allow a grower to raise his crop two to three times cheaper per bushel and take advantage of current high commodity prices,” says Kevin Miller, MANA crop protection fungicide and insecticide product manager. He adds that “the industry is in a highly-progressive era of precision-based crop production and management.”

Miller explains: “The MANA Crop Protection organization is focused and committed to bringing new high performance products hosting advanced formulations to the marketplace.”

Miller continues by calling out that his organization remains driven in developing more exclusion solutions to crop production issues like white mold. “White mold in soybeans has presented a challenging problem in recent years in geographies where soils endured a cool, wet spring. Key areas for this have been across the North Central states and Upper Midwest,” reports Miller. “To growers’ disadvantage, there have been minimal options until now for addressing the critical disease issue.”

Just this past year, MANA Crop Protection introduced its Incognito 4.5F fungicide for broadspectrum disease control from white mold to frogeye leaf spot to mildew and rusts. “Last year was our launch which proved immediate and wide spread acceptance and demand for the product. “With the anticipation for white mold this spring in even more U.S. locations, more growers will have the opportunity to use the product in 2012,” says Miller.

Todd Robran, DuPont product manager for row crops, adds this advice: “Fungicides definitely help manage some of the risk and high-risk acres. Preventive and curative treatments should be combined with timely scouting,”

In addition to the disease control benefits provided by fungicides, many growers have seen the plant health benefits these products can provide.

Years of BASF research on plant health benefits confirms what many growers have seen in their fields,” said Nick Fassler, technical market manager, fungicides, for the company. “Headline fungicide and Headline AMP fungicide can improve plant health through effective control of fungal disease and improved stress tolerance. Combined, these features enable plants to better withstand disease and environmental stresses for improved crop harvestability, quality and yield.”

In studies on corn, Headline was shown to improve stalk strength and reduce plant stress caused by factors such as hail damage, frost and drought.

“Research shows that minimizing disease pressure, increasing stress tolerance and improving growth efficiency can improve stalk strength, seed quality and the overall plant health of crops. This leads to increased yield potential and gives growers the kind of return on investment they’re looking for,” says Fassler.

Meyer is a freelance writer for Lobo Communications, Inc., Manchester, MO.

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