Iowa farmers are concerned about abnormally hot and dry weather this growing season. Following such a mild winter, many corn and soybean growers planted their crops a lot earlier than usual this year, but they did not expect drought-like conditions to be occurring already. Limited rainfall and high temperatures are the prime ingredients in creating poor crop formation and therefore, reducing yield and profit.
The need to apply foliar fungicides is often associated with wet conditions because those conditions typically favor disease development. However, through years of research, the Syngenta company has demonstrated that, in addition to disease control, applying fungicides during dry conditions enhances "Plant Performance" with improved water use efficiency. Syngenta's fungicide application program, trademarked as Plant Performance, assumes the presence of disease pressure in the field.
"Most people ask, 'Why would I consider a fungicide application in dry conditions?', and while you still can't grow corn in the desert, a more efficient use of water can make a big difference when rainfall is scarce," says Eric Tedford, technical asset lead for Syngenta. "Basically, plants treated with Quilt Xcel or Quadris fungicides better regulate water loss, so they don't lose moisture as quickly as untreated plants."
Improved water use efficiency, greener plants and more growth are added benefits
When improved water use efficiency is combined with the other physiological benefits these fungicides offer--like greener plants with more growth, larger corn ears and soybean pods with extended fill, and stronger stalks for a more efficient corn harvest--growers have the potential to realize considerable value from an application, he says.
Tedford cites results from recent university trials that compare Quilt Xcel versus untreated fields at different irrigation regimes. A 2011 study at Kansas State University showed untreated corn that was fully irrigated (to experience no moisture stress throughout the season) produced the same yield (214 bushels per acre) as corn treated with Quilt Xcel at only 60% of the full irrigation. In contrast, the untreated corn at 60% irrigation yielded 188 bushels per acre.
Another problem this summer is the early appearance of corn rootworm
Another problem farmers are facing this summer is the early arrival of corn rootworms. These highly destructive pests are appearing in fields as much as four weeks earlier than normal, leaving young corn plants vulnerable to excessive feeding.
Heavy populations of larvae can cause significant damage to root systems that have not developed properly in these dry conditions, which can lead to reduced standability and ultimately reduced yield. But emerging adult beetles also present a challenge by feeding on plant tissue and silks, which can interrupt pollination.
"Growers need to be conscious of protecting the plant during pollination," says Syngenta crop specialist Craig Abell. "With everything ahead of schedule this year, we need to be proactive in assessing existing pest pressures and take the proper action to protect both pollination and yield."
Even if you planted corn that has rootworm resistant trait, you may need to spray
While corn hybrids that include Bt traits have proven effective for some growers, other growers are discovering they need additional protection this season, due in part to the expression of Bt proteins not synchronizing with the early rootworm hatch. Scouting cornfields to determine if pest populations are exceeding economic thresholds is critical and growers in danger of sustaining significant damage should consider their options for short-term management.
Abell says an in-season application of a foliar insecticide like Warrior II with Zeon Technology or an application of Besiege foliar insecticide can help control corn rootworm adults, beetles and other damaging corn pests. More importantly, growers should review their current management strategies and determine what practices will best suit their operation in the future, he adds.