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.
 

Consider Fungicide Response When Selecting Seed

Kevin Sloane
National Technical Seed Manager
When considering seed choices for next season, include WinField United’s response-to-fungicide (RTF) scores in your decision-making process.
 
In 2017, WinField United tested 199 corn hybrids at 41 Answer Plot® locations and compared corn hybrids sprayed with a fungicide at V5 and VT against those receiving no fungicide treatment. The yield difference between the treated and untreated plants ranged from a 4-bushel-per-acre decrease to a 37-bushel-per-acre increase, with an average response of 11.2 additional bushels per acre for the fungicide-treated plants.
 
After measuring the yield difference between hybrids, WinField United assigns each hybrid a high, medium or low response score based on its yield difference between the treated and non-treated compared to all hybrids tested. Choosing the hybrids with optimal RTF scores for your unique fields is key. Here are some things to consider.
 
Monitor fields all year long
I recommend making your seed decisions a process, rather than something you only think about during the first part of September. Keep a close eye on your fields all year long to better understand what your hybrids are doing — and not doing — throughout the season and what steps you can take to help them achieve better yield potential. Season-long management allows you to adjust cropping plans according to what the year is giving us.
 
Consider field history
Evaluating your field history can help you anticipate future issues and select the right hybrid. If you have a field in a corn-on-corn rotation, and/or that field has had disease in the past, there is a high probability that it could occur again. This field would be a prime candidate for a high-RTF hybrid to potentially control disease there.
 
Optimize yield potential and standability
Our Answer Plot trials have shown that high-RTF hybrids give farmers a better chance to optimize yield potential by keeping the plant alive longer, and offer potential agronomic benefits such as improved standability late in the season. Alternatively, in situations where you are selecting a hybrid for lower-yielding ground that is difficult for equipment to access, it might make more sense to choose one with a lower RTF score.
 
Use RTF scores as a one of the talking points
Remember that RTF scores are only one factor in your seed-selection decisions. Other considerations are response to continuous corn, response to population and response to nitrogen. So, asking the right questions when making seed selections is the key to better placement, return on investment and predictability year over year.
 
Using all the tools in the toolbox, all season long, is the key to help you put the odds in your favor for predictable yields year over year. Talk with your trusted advisor about the best mix of hybrids for your operation.

Be Purposeful When Controlling Fungal Diseases

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 on your leaves and in your pocket.
 
Scout with intention
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 for 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.
 
Know when to act
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 keep an eye on conditions outside of your local area too.
 
Choose the right product
There are a lot of 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. For example, RustEase, a new fungicide by WinField United, contains two modes of action for broad-spectrum control of many common crop diseases. The active ingredients, cyproconozale and azoxystrobin, provide upward mobility with improved distribution so they can move within plant tissue to protect new growth. RustEase has both preventive and curative properties and provides solid residual activity.
 
To get the most from your fungicide application, add MasterLock® adjuvant to the tank mix. MasterLock improves deposition, retention and spreading of fungicides on leaves and helps product penetrate deeper into the canopy, where many fungal diseases start. You’ll get better plant coverage with MasterLock, which translates into better return on the application investment and more leaf area protected against disease.
 
RustEase is labeled for use in wheat, corn and soybeans. In my area, it’s primarily used in wheat because it protects against leaf, stem and stripe rust, as well as powdery mildew, tan spot and Septoria leaf blight. You’ll get the best return on investment when the flag leaf is protected, so an application from the late boot to flag leaf stage is recommended. Work with your agronomist to scout for and treat fungal diseases to protect plant health and yield.  

Make the Most of Your Fungicide Application

Mark Glady
Regional Agronomist
Will it pay to apply a fungicide this year? If we could look into the future, it would be easy to make that call today. Since that’s impossible, my best advice is to use data and common sense to determine the best course of action to protect plant health.
 
Start with seed
You already have access to data that can help you determine whether return on investment with a fungicide application is more likely. First, l recommend looking at your seed guide. Most companies rate hybrids and varieties for their tolerance to specific diseases. Seed choices with lower tolerance to diseases are good candidates for fungicide protection.
 
While the seed guide is a good place to start, Answer Plot® data from WinField United provides more about in-season results. Each year, we test 240 hybrids across seed brands to determine response-to-fungicide (RTF) scores. Unlike most seed guides, which base disease ratings on visual observations, Answer Plot data is used to calculate the potential yield response of a fungicide application by hybrid. The trials are replicated more than 200 times to account for different growing conditions and geographies. Data from 2017 Answer Plot trials showed a fungicide yield response averaging 11.2 bushels per acre across tested hybrids when MasterLock® adjuvant was included in the tank mix. Yield response ranged from -4 to 38 bushels per acre, which reinforces different hybrid responses to fungicide application.
 
Survey conditions and act
Once you understand where you’re likely to see the best response to fungicide, it’s time to survey fields. Scout early and often, especially if environmental conditions favor disease development. In general, you’ll see the best return on investment when applying a fungicide at tassel time. But if disease starts early and is progressing quickly, a V5 application can help protect plants until tasseling.
 
Get the most value from your fungicide treatment by adding an adjuvant like MasterLock to the tank mix. Effective crop protection depends on good coverage. It’s not about the ounces of product per acre that you spray ­­— ­­­­what’s important is that the active ingredient is actually reaching the plant. MasterLock optimizes droplet size to reduce drift potential and help ensure more product penetrates into the canopy. It contains a surfactant to help cover more leaf surface area.
 
Plan to attend an Answer Plot event this summer to learn more about getting the most from your fungicide applications.

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