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He’s a Fungi… but don’t let him ruin your party!

By Jason Ladman, Big Cob Hybrids Director of Sales

Yeah, bad play on words, but the truth is nobody wants to have late season fungus and disease take out yield in their corn or soybeans if it can be prevented – especially when commodity prices are dismal. 

There are many opinions surrounding whether fungicide applications are actually worth the money, but for what it is worth, we here at Big Cob Hybrids believe they are. From a seed company perspective, anytime you can protect a plant from disease it is worth your money. Of course, there are many factors in determining whether fungicides pay for themselves outright, but we do know that when disease presents itself, fungicides help reduce the potential for loss. The amount of saved revenue, or prevented loss, is not always a “one plus one equals two” equation. As we begin to peel back the onion, here are some conditions and items for consideration:

  • Check hybrid and variety ratings for certain foliar diseases when making seed placement decisions. Creek bottoms, low lying areas, and areas that are difficult to access due to urban sprawl should be planted with hybrids that have higher disease resistance ratings against diseases like gray leaf spot. Placing hybrids and varieties with stronger resistance does not mean the disease will not appear, it simply means that those plants will have a stronger tolerance to fight off the disease naturally.  If you are planting a hybrid or variety because it is the best fit for the ground but it doesn’t have high disease ratings, then you should budget for a foliar fungicide application when the crop reaches the appropriate growth stage.
foliar fungi graphic
  • Economic return is by far the hardest to determine simply because a person does not know exactly how much yield they are saving from a fungicide application. When applications are applied in July and harvest does not occur until October, it leaves a wide-open window for the environment to have a negative – or positive – influence on the growing crop. It is not a true “case closed” issue if you use foliar applied fungicide one year and do not see any return when you run that crop thru the harvester. The reason that there are just as many believers as there are unbelievers in this arena is because no situation and environment can be replicated exactly from one year to the next, making the argument difficult to settle. Repetition of use on your acres is the best judge over multiple years. A one-year trial does not count.
  • Current commodity prices also have a direct effect on the use of foliar fungicide applications. There is a direct correlation that when commodity prices are high, the use of foliar fungicides rises considerably. And when prices are closer to breakeven, less applications are applied.  The correlation is understandable and yet feels somewhat backwards in a sense unless you are farming for a crop insurance check. The most important thing a producer can do when commodity prices are low is to make sure they bring in the most bushels possible. If you believe that foliar fungicides work, then you will more than likely side with this logic.

Boiling it all down:

No matter what side of the aisle you are on when it comes to the use of foliar fungicides, it is important to establish some ground rules to follow year in and year out.  Foliar fungicide applications encompass some of the same rules as crop insurance. Most farmers take crop insurance fully expecting not to get a payout. They consider it an expense of doing business and may tweak their coverages when the markets dictate using higher or lower coverages. Foliar applications can be treated the same way. 

Possible rules of engagement:

  • Build your farm plan around the proper genetics that fit your acres. Do not just use test plot winners from the previous year.
  • Identify the hybrids or varieties you are using that have less than desirable disease resistance and build a foliar fungicide application for those acres into your cash flow.
  • Spray those aces with a recommended fungicide. If timing of insecticide is correct and necessary, then use your fungicide application as a “free trip” for your insecticide.
  • If commodity prices rise during the summer seasonal months (June/July) and you want to spray more acres, then by all means do so if you deem it is a good use of funds.

To Spray or Not to Spray… that is the question.  If you need some guidance on evaluating the possible return from making this type of investment, we are here to assist you while keeping in mind your wants and needs on every acre. Call us at (402) 641.5014 or email sales@bigcob.com.

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