Growing Knowledge

Read the latest insights from our experts as they cover agronomy issues that matter most to you and your operation.

It’s Not Too Early to Talk Fungicides

Jason Roth
agronomist
Farmers often ask me when they should plan to purchase their fungicides for the season. My answer is, in the off-season AND in-season. It seems contradictory, but there are good reasons to make purchases both times of the year.
 
It’s not just about disease pressure
With tighter margins, many farmers are choosing to delay their fungicide purchases to see what the season brings. But that might not be the best approach to getting the most from your genetics. Our Answer Plot® data shows that not all hybrids respond to fungicide applications the same way. We’ve seen some locations where disease pressure has been relatively low, yet the hybrids respond significantly to a fungicide application. That’s because fungicides do more than just control disease. They affect plants in other physiological ways, including influencing nitrogen use efficiency, respiration maintenance and hormone production. All these things can affect yield potential, even in the absence of disease.
 
3 tips for a stronger plant health strategy
My advice for building a solid plant health strategy comes down to three steps.
 
  1. Review your seed choices and learn how they respond to a fungicide application. Plan to prepay for fungicides and adjuvants on acres with high-response hybrids. Our data shows a positive return on investment, even when disease pressure is low.
 
  1. For hybrids that are less responsive to fungicides, I’d recommend holding off on fungicide purchases to assess disease pressure in-season. If disease comes in early and is heavy, I’d recommend a fungicide, paired with MasterLock® adjuvant, to help protect yield potential.
 
  1. Regardless of when you make your purchase, you should always plan to add an adjuvant to your tank mix. The drift deposition aid MasterLock improves fungicide coverage within the plant’s canopy, leading to improved ROI potential on input costs. Our Answer Plot data has shown an average 5.7-bushel-per-acre yield advantage in corn, simply by adding MasterLock to the fungicide tank mix.
 
If you’re tempted to wait to make your fungicide purchases until next summer, take a look at your genetics’ response-to scores to make sure you’re not missing an opportunity to optimize yield. Postharvest is the perfect time to work with your local WinField United retailer to plan hybrid placement and management to ensure you’re capitalizing on your seed’s potential.    
 

Understand the Value of Foliar Health

Dan Griffin
technical seed agronomist
If you could look into a crystal ball during 2019 planning, what would it tell you? Obviously, there’s no predicting the future in agriculture, but you can use data to help inform your decision-making.
 
Every year, WinField United generates response-to-fungicide data for all the hybrids being tested in nearly 200 Answer Plot® locations nationwide. In 2017, the results demonstrated a national average yield gain of 11.2 bushels per acre, following a tassel application of fungicide. These gains are often twice this amount in the eastern Corn Belt, due to high rainfall, heat, humidity and fungal pathogen populations that overwinter on crop residue, causing foliar disease pressure throughout the growing season.
 
But where on an ear of corn do we physically see the benefit of a foliar fungicide application?
This year in Ohio, our local WinField United team designed a new Answer Plot demonstration called the “Ear Leaf Demo” to show how response to fungicide can be seen on an ear of corn. As you consider input investments for the year ahead, the results from this demonstration can help you better understand the value of a foliar fungicide application.
 
Leaf surface area leads to grain fill
The ear leaf is the most important leaf on a corn plant because it powers the photosynthetic ability of the plant late into the season. Protecting the ear leaf, and the leaves above it, adds yield through increased kernel depth, which is a critical component to high-yielding corn. Gray leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight and southern rust destroy the photosynthetic ability of a given leaf by infecting the plant and decreasing the amount of photosynthetically active leaf surface area. Decreased leaf surface area diminishes the plant’s ability to add yield through kernel depth. Foliar fungicides play an important part in preserving ear leaf integrity during the grain fill period, which could contribute to increased yield potential.
 
To demonstrate leaf integrity’s critical role in yield growth, we removed the ear leaf for a block of eight rows and left it intact on the adjacent eight rows. There were no other differences between the two treatment zones. The removal of the ear leaf simulates the impact a foliar disease can have if it attacks the surface area of the leaf. During a year of high disease pressure in Ohio, the visual results were impressive. Remember, yield response to a VT/R1 fungicide application is not seen in increased kernel rows or length — it is seen in increased kernel depth.
 
Overhead view of full-length corn

10-22-Overhead-image-of-corn-kernel-depth-(2).png
In these images, the increased kernel depth is easily identified. Both the plant with an ear leaf intact (left) and the plant with an ear leaf removed at R1 (right) have the same number of kernels around and the length. But notice the stark difference in kernel depth between the two. The plant with an intact ear leaf added much more kernel depth and, in turn, will have the higher yield potential come harvest.
 
This is how fungicide applications can provide value: providing disease resistance on the ear leaf to preserve the plant’s photosynthetic ability longer into grain fill. Understanding that value is important as 2019 planning begins. Be sure to speak with your local agronomist about whether you should set aside a disease protection budget for next year.
 
© 2018 WinField United. Answer Plot is a trademark of WinField United.
 

Focus on Data Quality, Not Quantity

Brody McCauley
Wisconsin Answer Plot Research Manager
“Data” seems to be the buzz word in agriculture lately, with new agriculture startups launching daily to provide more information for farmers. But maybe more data isn’t what we need. It’s time to focus on quality data that leads to profitable decisions. Here’s how we’re doing that with the Answer Plot® program.
 
  1. Cause and effect or correlation? There’s a big difference between correlation and causation. We have nearly 200 Answer Plot testing locations across the U.S. where we’re able to replicate our trials. We’ve generated more than 6 million data points from the Answer Plot program, and each data point has been statistically analyzed to help us deliver reliable, consistent insights to improve farm profitability. Our dedicated analysts help us decipher the data to make sure what we’re seeing is real, not just correlation.
 
  1. You get what you give. If a trial protocol is flawed by design, or if the execution of the trial is botched, data integrity is compromised. The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” applies to data as well. Our Answer Plot teams are committed to limiting variability in our tests by placing trials on the most uniform soils possible. We follow pre-established protocols for all processes, from how we get the seed into packets for planting to our quality control of data points. 
 
  1. We’re all human. Human error is one way data integrity is compromised. We’ve tried to limit the introduction of human error by employing as much technology as possible to help improve our accuracy. For example, we use ArcMap GIS to manipulate and create all plot maps. And Trimble GPS guidance systems read those maps when we’re planting, applying fertilizers and crop protection products, and harvesting. Using pre-mapped files, we can accurately place each seed and apply each treatment using technology, which helps reduce human error.
 
The Answer Plot program is a valuable resource for farmers because you can be confident that you’re getting quality data that has been collected using established protocols and analyzed using sound statistics. To learn more about the data we’re collecting, visit AnswerPlot.com or contact your local WinField United retailer.

Making a Difference With Community Gardens

Nathan Pohlen
agronomy research specialist
As an agronomy research specialist with WinField United, I spend a lot of time finding ways to help farmers increase their productivity. My position has provided me a unique opportunity to use my training and experience to mentor the next generation of farmers as a sponsor for the WinField United Answer Plot® Community Gardens project.
 
The program is supported by the Land O’Lakes Foundation, which grants funds to high school FFA chapters to plant and maintain community gardens. Local Answer Plot teams share agronomic knowledge and support the schools throughout the growing season. At the end of the season, all the produce grown is donated to a local food pantry to help battle hunger in rural communities.
 
The Community Garden project gives teens who may not have had a typical farm upbringing the chance to experience modern agriculture and find out what it takes to produce a quality crop. Students learn about pest control, pollination, planting and harvest, as well as how to be good stewards of the land. At the same time, they’re giving back to their community through a local charity.
 
I work closely with the Gilbert and Story City FFA chapters in Iowa to help coordinate crews, provide advice and maintain the gardens. I’m impressed by how these students have taken ownership of the project and how it has served as a gateway to get them involved in other local charities. I’ve also seen a big boost in ag education as students invest time in the gardens.    
 
WinField United teams support the Community Garden project because we understand the value of agricultural education for our young people. This collaborative program continues to enrich the lives of local students, the community and Answer Plot teams.

Farmer Stories: Answer Plots Help Farmers Take Advantage of Tech

WinField United
Agronomy Team
As we reflect on the past 20 years, one thing that amazes us is how far agriculture technology has come. From traited seed to remote sensing, it’s clear that staying on top of the latest advances in agriculture can be a daunting task for most farmers. When we design Answer Plot® events, one goal is to ensure farmers are aware of the latest technology and resources available to help them grow their businesses. A visit to an Answer Plot event may help you navigate ever-changing ag technology tools.
 
Capture opportunities
Michael Corderman, a corn and soybean grower in Armstrong, Iowa, says staying on top of technology makes him a better farmer. He’s attended Answer Plot events for several years for the progressive insights that are shared.
AnswerPlot_FarmerTestimonials_0005_-Times-are-changing-so-fast-in-today-s-world-that-you-ve-got-to.jpgOne of technology opportunities Michael discovered at an Answer Plot event could help him get more grain to market.
AnswerPlot_FarmerTestimonials_0006_-The-R7-Field-Forecasting-Tool-is-a-great,-great-product-I-m.jpgTechnology like this helps farmers allocate their resources to make their dollars work harder.
 
Finding Answers at Answer Plots
But, using the technology is just one part of the equation. Knowing how to process the information that the technology supplies and apply it in practical ways is another hurdle farmers face. That’s where Answer Plot events can help. We demonstrate new technology, but we also help digest the data to reveal what impact it will have on your farm.
 
John Preussner of Dundee, Iowa, recalls the first Answer Plot event he attended 14 years ago.
AnswerPlot_FarmerTestimonials_0007_-I-remember-at-that-meeting-I-actually-stood-up-and-said,-‘Am-I.jpgLike Michael, John has also found opportunities on his farm by using technology tools, namely the Characterization Charts (CHT) tool within R7.
AnswerPlot_FarmerTestimonials_0008_-This-tool-just-has-so-much-data,-and-it-s-broken-down-by-soil.jpg
He uses the information to place different hybrids on his farm as a way to help manage risk. John is confident in the data because it’s replicated over many environments and under different production practices.    
 
Take advantage of new opportunities that are waiting to be found on your farm. Talk with your local WinField United retailer about visiting an Answer Plot location before harvest gets underway.

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