Mild Winter Will Mean More Insect, Disease Pressure

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how our section of Ohio has had probably the mildest winter I can ever remember. From the end of October until now, we’ve had two significant snowfalls (three inches or more in a day’s time) and only two weeks of temperatures that consistently dipped below the 20 degree mark.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who has noted this weather trend. At last week’s Commodity Classic in Nashville, TN, I had the chance to talk with one Southern Ohio grower who had experienced the exact same thing. “I can’t remember any year when I’ve been able to do some kind of field work the entire season,” he told me over breakfast. “But it’s been warm enough that I’ve been able to do that this year.”

Of course, for every silver lining life tends to hand you, there is a potential cloud. In the case of a milder winter across much of the country, that means the potential exists for 2012 to be a bumper year for yield-robbing insects and diseases. With long hard freezes, overwintering insects and disease spores will have had a much better chance of survival, increasing their numbers once the cold weather permanently disappears in the next couple of weeks.

At the Commodity Classic, several companies were anticipating a busy 2012 for their insecticides and insect-fighting seed traits. And more than a few folks mentioned that Asian soybean rust spores – which have largely been a non-factor the past several years because of their inability to overwinter anywhere but the tips of Louisiana and Florida – may have survived much further north this year in places such as Georgia and Tennessee.

Like everyone else in the ag market, I’m excited by the prospects an early spring will hold for the industry’s ability to produce a banner crop in 2012. But I will also be closely watching how severe insect and disease pressures are as well.

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