Northern corn grower sold on using fungicide

Is applying a fungicide routinely to corn several times during the growing season profitable? David Hartz believes so, and he backs up his conviction with his bank account.

The Cavalier, N.D., farmer applies Headline three times to corn during the growing season. He puts Headline in the furrow with the seed, sprays it on small plants when he’s applying a postemergent herbicide and treats plants again when tassels appear. His strategy is to keep corn as healthy as possible as long as possible.

“I’m have a pretty short season to start with with,” says Hartz, who farms near the North Dakota-Canadian border and has just 1,900 growing degree days in an average season. “I want the corn plants to be able to make full use of every bit of sunlight and heat we get.”

None of the area universities recommend such aggressive use of Headline. Extension corn specialists at North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota say they haven’t seen any local research that shows any statistically significant yield response.

That puzzles Hartz, who has done extensive strip trials on his farm with BASF, the company that makes Headline. As part of an intensive management system with higher-than-average plant populations and fertilizer levels, Hartz says that on his Headline-treated strips he’s seen:

Bigger roots. Hartz says the larger the roots, the more nutrients and water the plant can absorb.

More green, healthy leaves. The larger the leaf area and the greener it stays late in the season, the higher the rate of photosynthesis during grain fill, he says. That’s important in northern North Dakota, especially, where days start getting noticeable shorter in August.

Bigger stalks. Plants with bigger, heavier stalks are less likely to lodge in wind or snow. Because he is located so far north, “some years, the stalk might have to be my grain bin,” Hartz says.

Hartz doesn’t disclose yield data from his trials. But he’s so convinced that Headline is making him money that he not doing strip trials anymore.

“I’m treating everything,” he says.

Hartz claims his yields are way above county average yields.

“I don’t think that I’d be there if it weren’t for Headline.”

What other experts have to say about the use of Headline on corn

Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota:

“We have tried Headline applied at tasseling in corn at Lamberton and Waseca, Minn., over the last three years.

We applied it on a single hybrid (DKC52-59) at each of three populations (16,000, 32,000 and 44,000 plants per acre, final stand) in each of three planting dates (late April, mid-May, late May).

“On average, we got about a 2% to 3% yield increase and corn that was 0.5 percentage point wetter at harvest. This was consistent across planting dates and populations. However, these responses were not statistically significant at the 5% probability level. In another set of trials at Waseca, with three hybrids in 2009 and one hybrid in 2010, where different fungicide products were applied early in the season and also at tasseling, we found no effect on grain yield or harvest moisture.

“It appears that there are many other factors in corn production that many growers are overlooking that are much more important than foliar fungicide.”

Joel Ransom, North Dakota State University:

“During two years of testing in Prosper and Carrington, N.D., we did not see any consistent yield advantage with the use of Headline after tasseling on corn. Given that we had almost no foliar diseases even when no fungicide was applied, the lack of benefit from applying a fungicide is not too surprising.”

Nick Fassler, BASF:

“On-farm trials, university small plot trials and seed company hybrid evaluations of Headline from 2004 to 2009 show a 13.5 bushels per acre average yield increase over untreated checks.

“Research shows an average yield increase with Headline of 12.2, 16.9 and 19.4 bushels per acre under conditions of low, moderate and high disease pressure, respectively, in corn. Headline AMP, a new combination fungicide from BASF, has fared well in replicated university and seed company trials from 2007 to 2009.

“Headline AMP shows consistent yield advantages of more than 11.3 bushels per acre over untreated checks. Headline AMP also had a 4.3 bushel per acre advantage over competitive fungicides tested.”

Research trial results released

A summary of university and Extension foliar fungicide research trials on corn conducted in 2008 and 2009 in the U.S. and Ontario indicates that in low-
disease-pressure environments treated corn yielded about 2 bushels per acre more than untreated corn. With high disease pressure, treated corn yielded about 8 bushels per acre more.

Data was provided by university and Extension personnel in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Ontario, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin. See www.ncipmc.org/fieldcrops/corn_fungicides.pdf.

Source: Foliar Fungicides for Corn.


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PLANT HEALTH: David Hartz, shown here checking corn kernel development, makes it a point to do everything possible to keep corn plants as healthy as possible.

This article published in the January, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.