By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.
As the 2019 growing season continues, producers across the Eastern Corn Belt will begin put more thought towards their production plans and management decisions for the upcoming season. One challenge that has affected corn yields in our sales territory over the past few years is foliar disease, especially Northern Corn Leaf Blight. Anyone who attended one of our Winter Agronomy Meetings heard a discussion of what conditions promote diseases (Nothern Corn Leaf Blight and Gray Leaf Spot) and possible management options. You might ask, “What are the important management options that will protect yield from leaf diseases?” Although some of the important management practices have already been performed (crop rotation, hybrid selection, and tillage) growers still have opportunities to protect their corn from disease as discussed in the following list:
• Scouting: Scouting fields is an important part of a management plan. Walk corn fields right before tassel emergence to determine disease presence and severity.
• Identify Which Diseases are Present: Having the ability to identify specific diseases is a critical piece in managing GLS and NCLB. NCLB symptoms are brown or tan cigar-shaped lesions, ranging from one to six inches in length. GLS symptoms are tan or gray rectangles with parallel or straight sides, ranging from half and inch to four inches in length.
• Effective use of fungicides: Whether or not to apply fungicides has become a more challenging question with lower commodity prices. Many factors must be considered when determining if a fungicide application is necessary, including: hybrid resistance, disease severity, stage of crop development, expected yield benefit, etc.
While we don’t know if the weather for the 2019 growing season will be conducive for development of yield-reducing disease, we do know that there is plenty of disease inoculum in crop residue from the 2018 growing season. Should the right patterns of weather develop, producers in the Eastern Corn Belt could be looking at another year where leaf diseases threaten corn yields. As always, if diseases become a problem Seed Consultants’ knowledgeable sales staff and agronomy team are available to help customers determine where and when to apply fungicides.