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The Fungicide Journey

Jul 07, 2021

   Can you believe we have been discussing fungicide applications for over 10 years? Products have advanced greatly since BASF introduced us to Headline. I still remember one of the first fungicide trials I conducted on DKC61-69, and how amazed we were when we saw the yield gain. 

    The evolution of products has been quick, starting with products that only were preventative single modes of action. We then added another mode to bring in the curative aspect, and most recently have products with three modes of action that deliver consistent control over an expanded list of diseases as well as giving us a larger time frame for protection against these diseases.

    Increased plant health has always been a key benefit from this application, whether you were applying at the V5 growth stage or around pollination for corn or during pod fill for our soybean crop, and it shows up many different ways. We see higher forage quality when fungicide is applied on fields that were harvested as corn silage, and we have all seen the videos of combining a corn field that was only partially treated with fungicide. It is great to see the combine increase speed in the treated areas of the field, and then panning to the yield monitor to show the increased yields. And lastly, we cannot forget about soybeans, where we visually see a field maturing naturally. If we look back to just last fall, we were thankful for those beans that were holding some moisture rather than delivering soybeans that were less than 10%.

    While better products and increased plant health were big gains over the last decade, the advances in science have given us the greatest gains. We once had to guess and hope that the hybrid planted was going to give a positive return on Investment. 

    Today, all of River Valley Cooperative’s seed partners provide us with predictive responses to a fungicide application. In addition to these recommendations, WinField United provides us with Response to Fungicide (RTF) scores on many of the hybrids that are planted today. These scores provide predicted yields gains in fields with limited disease pressure. It is incredible that yield 

gains ranged from 3.9 to 35.3 bushels per acre in 2020, and surprisingly, the average response was slightly less in 2020 than in previous years. While the cost of fungicide varies by brand and application method, a positive ROI can be easily calculated on many of the hybrids tested last year from the yield gain alone before factoring in any additional benefits. 

    The last piece I want to discuss is what we now know about canopy penetration. Fungicide applications need to penetrate the entire canopy of the soybean plant, and when it comes to corn, every leaf above the ear needs to be protected to maximize photosynthesis.

    History has allowed us to realize many incentives of why we now plan for fungicide applications rather than taking the wait-and-see approach. Decreased combine separator hours, protection against new diseases like tar spot, and better cow feed are just a few benefits that add to the increased ROI equation.

    Whether you have been using fungicide for years or never considered it, I challenge all growers to have a conversation with your River Valley Cooperative Account Manager to discuss the different modes of actions available as well as identifying the RTF Scores of the hybrids you are planting this spring.

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