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Do your crop disease homework

Before you run that planter this spring, ask yourself a few questios before you pull into the field and start putting in your 2011 crop. Doing so is key to successful disease management.

A lot of what goes into a successful disease management plan has to do with knowing your land's history, what's been a problem before and in turn, where and what type of resistance issues you could face in the future, according to Purdue University crop specialist Kiersten Wise.

"Good disease management starts with knowing what diseases are already present in the field," Wise says in a university report. "For example, the fungus that causes sudden death syndrome in soybeans survives in the soil and can affect the next soybean crop if conditions are favorable for disease development." 

Just as importantly, know how those disease were treated in past instances and look to any alternatives you might be able to employ if necessary, Wise adds.

"With diseases like gray leaf spot of corn, we can reduce the risk of disease development through good hybrid selection and crop production practices," Wise says.  "But if throughout the season there are weather conditions that favor disease development and gray leaf spot could reach a damaging level, fungicides are available to help manage this disease."

But, especially when it comes to fungicide, Wise says it's important to weigh the economic pros and cons of any type of treatment. "Keep in mind we see the most consistent economic benefit to a fungicide application when it is based on a disease threat," she says. "Applying fungicide in the absence of disease, or a disease threat has a less consistent yield response and a higher cost factor."

Looking ahead, though Wise advises farmers to use field records of the past as a benchmark to get an idea of possible future disease and pest outbreaks, watching how Mother Nature behaves is of utmost importance in effective disease management.

"Ultimately, what diseases will be problematic will depend entirely upon the weather, but keeping good records of field history and using preventative management practices based on past history will help minimize losses due to disease," she says.

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