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How Fungicide Applications Provide Value

Jul 14, 2019

With corn acres down from anticipated totals across Ohio, protecting every bushel is important for your profitability in a challenging year. It is not too late to influence yield in this year’s corn crop. In 2017, Answer Plot Trial results demonstrated a national average yield gain of 11.2 bushels per acre from applying a tassel application of fungicide. These gains have shown twice this amount or higher here in Ohio, due to high rainfall, heat, humidity and fungal pathogen populations that overwinter on crop residue, causing foliar disease pressure throughout the growing season.

Leaf surface area leads to grain fill
The ear leaf is the most important leaf on a corn plant because it powers the photosynthetic ability of the plant late into the season. Protecting the ear leaf, and the leaves above it, adds yield through increased kernel depth, which is a critical component to high-yielding corn. Gray leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight and southern rust destroy the photosynthetic ability of a given leaf by infecting the plant and decreasing the amount of photosynthetically active leaf surface area. Decreased leaf surface area diminishes the plant’s ability to add yield through kernel depth. Foliar fungicides play an important part in preserving ear leaf integrity during the grain fill period, thereby protecting that plant’s yield potential.
Seeing response to fungicide
But where on an ear of corn do we physically see the benefit of a foliar fungicide application? Our local WinField United team has designed a new Answer Plot demonstration called the “Ear Leaf Demo” to show how response to fungicide can be seen on an ear of corn.

To demonstrate leaf integrity’s critical role in yield growth, we remove the ear leaf for a block of eight rows and leave it intact on the adjacent eight rows. There are no other differences between the two treatment zones. The removal of the ear leaf simulates the impact a foliar disease can have if it attacks the surface area of the leaf. The photos shown below are from 2018, which as most remember was a high disease pressure year in Ohio. As you can see the visual results were impressive. Remember, yield response to a VT/R1 fungicide application is not seen in increased kernel rows or length — it is seen in increased kernel depth.

In these images, the increased kernel depth is easily identified. Both the plant with an ear leaf intact (left) and the plant with an ear leaf removed at R1 (right) have the same number of kernels around and the length. Notice the stark difference in kernel depth between the two. The plant with an intact ear leaf added much more kernel depth and, in turn, will have the higher yield potential come harvest.
This is how fungicide applications provide value, they provide disease resistance on the ear leaf to preserve the plant’s photosynthetic ability longer into grain fill. Understanding that value is important as in-season management decisions are made. Data proven investments can add bushels at the end of the season and increase profit potential, especially where we have good stands. Even in a year like 2019, you never want to give up on a growing crop, particularly one like this year’s corn crop which could have great upside potential in terms of value in the bin after harvest.  

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