With planting season moving at a rapid pace, sprayers will likely be out in full force toward the end of May and early June. The early planting has put some seeds in the ground in cooler conditions, which could pose an early disease threat.
Cooler soils often lead to root rot problems, said Daren Mueller, plant pathologist with Iowa State University Extension. The early planting may result in a slower start for the seed which can lead to gaps between rows along with uneven stands and growth.
“Those are quick signs you might be seeing a problem,” Mueller said. “Anything that looks unusual is worth looking at and paying extra attention too.”
If conditions turn wetter, the threat of disease will increase exponentially, said Tyler Steinkamp, crop protection product manager with WinField United. For those with early soybeans, the biggest issues cold soil temperatures can bring are Pythium and sudden death syndrome.
“If we got some moisture soon, it will be more of an issue for us,” Steinkamp said.
Knowing what that disease pressure is can be important, but everything can be rendered moot if the equipment isn’t in good shape to treat it.
“Hopefully they’ve taken some time to give their sprayer a once over before taking it to the field,” said Mark Burns, application marketing manager with Case IH. “The machine is only as good as the information that’s fed into it, so we want to make sure they’ve done their calibrations, visual checks and make sure they are actually putting on the right amount of product that the displays think it is doing.”
Windy conditions can lead to concern about inefficient spraying and increased drift potential.
“In drier and dustier conditions, there are things that give us a bit of a headache,” he said. “The chemical can latch onto the dust and away it goes.”
With a smaller window for some herbicide applications as well, Burns understands people may want to move quicker, but there are risks. He said sprayer speed is important in drier conditions as more dust will kick up.
“Most have a recommended or ideal droplet spectrum, but it really comes down to the sprayer operator selecting the proper tip for that,” he said. “If we are looking for greater velocity, you might get fewer, bigger droplets with more mass that have more canopy penetration, but more, smaller droplets could get carried away.”
Any equipment issues can also cause delays in the field. Burns said that having a backup is important, but he feels the trouble with part availability seen in recent years appears to be easing.
“Manufacturers have done a better job in getting caught up where it’s not necessarily hand to mouth all the time, and there might be some backorders, but we are in a better position today than we were last year,” he said.
Farmers are also showing a tendency to utilize their sprayers again later in the season, Mueller said. It would be common to make one fungicide pass for the season, but farmers may be looking to make an additional pass to protect their investment.
“Farmers are certainly more willing to think about two applications on corn,” Mueller said. “I would love to see farmers really be diligent about leaving check strips where they experiment with changes in management practices such as this.”
Ahead of the first fungicide pass, Steinkamp said there isn’t much farmers can be doing outside of scouting if the crop is in the ground.
“Once that planting window passes, there’s not a lot you can do until foliar applications,” he said. “Then we aren’t talking until right ahead of tassel, and that’s when you can see some early disease pressure.”