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Tips to battle early season corn diseases

Farmers can arm themselves with scouting, patience at planting.

Getting the corn crop off to a solid start includes managing early corn seedling diseases like PythiumRhizoctoniaFusarium and Penicillium.

Justin Schneider, LG Seeds agronomist in Michigan, offers tips for limiting the number of bad days to maximize yield potential.

1: Scout fields early

The critical time to scout corn fields for seedling diseases is 10 days to two weeks after planting, says Schneider, adding, “If you need help with that, contact your local agronomist. We’re happy to run out there and do stand counts and identify early disease threats.”

“If you don’t spot a problem until you are side-dressing with nitrogen or spraying a herbicide, you’re too late,” he says.

Pythium thrives in cool, wet soil and can been fueled by reduced or no-till situations and increased use of cover crops. It causes more damage than Fusarium and Rhizoctonia combined. Schneider says in Michigan, poorly drained soil creates an optimal environment for early-seedling diseases like Pythium.

Schneider also encounters Rhizoctonia, particularly with warmer soils and in irrigated fields, as well as Fusarium, which can be triggered by stressors like herbicide damage or improper seedbed preparation.

Penicillium is more prevalent in areas like southern Illinois or Tennessee where temperatures are warmer in the spring.

These diseases hinder root development, which can impact nutrient and water uptake, reduce plant growth and, in severe cases, kill seedlings, says Schneider.

2: Practice patience at planting

Farmers have increasingly been “pushing the envelope” when it comes to planting, with Schneider cautioning, “We need to be as close as we can to that 50-degree soil temperature mark at planting, especially if a field has a history of early seedling diseases.”

He also emphasizes the importance of patience when it comes to seedbed prep and ensuring good seed-to-soil contact. “The longer that seed sits in the ground, the more susceptible it’s going to be to a disease threat,” Schneider warns.

3: Use a seed treatment

A good fungicide seed treatment can provide an added layer of protection.

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