Current low corn and soybean commodity prices have many growers cutting out inputs and questioning if a planned foliar fungicide application makes financial sense this year.
“The best way for a farmer to combat low commodity prices is with high yields,” says Andrew Fisher, product lead for fungicides at Syngenta. “Low commodity prices can make it very tempting for farmers to start cutting out inputs. But before an input is cut, growers should carefully consider the impact that input has on yield, to make sure they aren’t actually hurting themselves in the long run.”
Depending on which chemistries it includes, a fungicide not only can control disease, but also provide stress management benefits to both increase and preserve potential yield. Since stressors, such as extreme heat, cool temperatures, dry conditions, and excessive moisture can’t be predicted and disease pressure can vary substantially from year to year, it is important for growers to select a fungicide that brings value despite these conditions.
Yield increases with certain fungicides come different ways
Syngenta trials support fungicide use this year, says Fisher, showing that Quilt Xcel fungicide brings an average 8 to 15 bushel per acre yield increase in corn, depending on application timing, and an average yield increase of 4 to 8 bushel per acre in soybeans. These yield increases provide up to a two to three times return on investment, even at $3.25 corn and $9.50 soybean commodity prices.
Fisher points out that yield increases with Quilt Xcel come from three different effects it has within the plant: improved water use efficiency, improved plant growth and disease control. “Quilt Xcel helps with disease control, as you would expect, but it also helps plants manage stress from too much or too little water and high temperatures, and it keeps plants green longer, allowing for longer periods of photosynthesis for more growth and grain or pod fill, which leads to more yield,” he says.
Use a fungicide that has preventive and curative control
These benefits pay off throughout the season, Fisher explains. As temperatures rise, Quilt Xcel’s water use efficiency benefits actually reduce transpiration (water loss from the plant), which helps it to better tolerate the hot, dry conditions. In contrast, last year’s late season rainfall mixed with fluctuating temperatures led to a widespread occurrence of fungal diseases, including common rust and gray leaf spot which thrive in warm, wet conditions.
Fungicides like Quilt Xcel deliver broad-spectrum preventive and curative disease control to keep plants healthy, says Fisher. Other physiological benefits, like stronger stalks that result in less lodging, are contributing to yield even on years that seem to have very minimal stress.
Eastern Iowa farmer applies a foliar fungicide every year
Joe Dierick, a corn grower from DeWitt in eastern Iowa, explains why he feels fungicides are valuable each year. “I plan on using Quilt Xcel every year. It’s part of our normal program. In a dry year, I believe it helps plants use water more efficiently. In a wet year, there is more disease pressure so it helps keep the plant healthier. Healthier plants equal more yield, so we plan on using Quilt Xcel on our corn every year.”
Randy Kool, agronomic service representative for Syngenta in Iowa, says mitigating environmental stress is a grower’s greatest challenge every year. “This year, growers in Iowa have experienced frequent, heavy rain which increases humidity and the probability of disease spread,” says Kool. “But even in a year with less rain, cool temperatures and little chance of widespread disease, a fungicide still demonstrates increased plant health for greater standability and harvestability.”
“Think carefully about what factors are likely to improve yield,” says Fisher. “A grower’s greatest defense against low commodity prices is an input such as a foliar fungicide that provides consistent performance year after year, regardless of conditions.”