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An Ounce of Prevention…

Here in the central part of Illinois, we’ve experienced hot, humid days and nights, and frequently seen cloudy, foggy wet mornings—ideal conditions for the growth of fungus. Preventive fungicide application can be a tough concept to get your head around, especially when everyone is trying to find places to cut costs. The problem is, it’s tougher to treat fungal disease once you see the symptoms than it is to prevent the problem.

I just saw a dramatic illustration of the value of preventive application. Walking through one of our plots, I literally looked like I had a spray tan from the rust in the field. When I hit the portion of that field that had received a preventive fungicide treatment, it was a green wall – the rust stopped dead. I know it’s hard to treat a field that has no symptoms, but when the conditions are right, you know the problem will arise. Prevention gives you the upper hand.

I’m also seeing some evidence of nitrogen deficiency, as some corn is looking ready to harvest earlier than it should. I believe we’ve lost some yield in some fields, through a combination of rain taking nitrogen out of the root zone, cutting back on nitrogen rates or skipping the sidedress application in hopes that a little more early-season nitrogen would carry the crop. We’re seeing how important that layered approach to nitrogen application is.

One final point to make – we want corn to dry down, not die down. Corn doesn’t have to be straw brown to be ready to harvest anymore. As long as the moisture in that ear is where you want it to be, it doesn’t matter if the plant is alive or not. With all that said, we’re sitting in pretty good shape for corn in this area.

Though there’s an uneasy feeling right now regarding commodity prices and margins, we do need the bushels to offset the low prices. Cutting inputs can look attractive on the front end until we lose yields on the back side. It takes a long time to build soil fertility levels, but they can be depleted in a hurry once we start cutting back.

Spectacular soybeans

Moving to soybeans, it looks like we’re going to have some pretty tremendous beans in some areas. Some were planted in April, and we had some timely August rains, which are going to help those plants fill out the top side of the plants and potentially add 3-5 bushels.

What’s hurting us now is white mold and sudden death syndrome (SDS). I’ve been in a couple of side-by-sides where we’ve used ILeVO®, a seed treatment to help prevent SDS, and it looks very effective this year. White mold is tough, and it’s pretty bad in some places that I didn’t necessarily expect to see it. Selecting varieties with a high resistance to white mold is one step to take. Preventive fungicide application is another possible approach. New biologicals that are supposed to fight the fungus in the soil are also on the market, but we haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate those at this point.

We’ll be analyzing a vast amount of data once all our plots are harvested, and I’m excited to see the results. We’ll be making that information available to you once we have it in a usable form.

Tal Holmes Kyle Meece
Agronomy Sales
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