Did corn fungicides pay in 2016?

As farmers around the state scouted their withering corn fields this summer, the application of fungicides seemed like a waste of money. Some are now second-guessing that decision.

“I should have done a whole lot more fungicides,” said Jeremy Goyings, who farms in Paulding County. “We didn’t want to throw more money at what looked like a 100-bushel corn crop at the time, but it turns out we should have. There were a lot of excellent results with fungicides in this area. It was a little variety specific and those varieties that were more disease susceptible saw more benefit. It drives home the point that we need to be pushing harder on the fungicides on the corn. I think there is money to be made with more blanket applications. There may be years that it does not have that kind of yield benefit, but there are years where it does pay and you don’t want to miss out on it. The plant health is important. Keeping that corn alive a little longer helped capture the larger kernel size.”

Jon Miller shared the same regrets in Fairfield County.

“Talking to neighbors, it seems like fungicide really paid for itself this year,” Miller said. “I think we’ll probably do more fungicide next year because of how this year went. It was so dry and we didn’t see the disease but there was some yield benefit. With the later rains it might have really helped.”

The problem is that the plant health benefits in corn are challenging to quantify and document, particularly when prices are low.

“I have heard from some growers and field agronomists about the plant health benefits of fungicides this year. They didn’t have the disease pressure and they are seeing higher yields, but they are also seeing much higher moisture corn,” said Peter Thomison, Ohio State University Extension corn specialist. “Plant health and fungicides are a touchy issue. I have done work with this, along with plant pathologists, and it is frustrating. We have done the work for several years and not seen any benefits. Then, lo and behold, we have a year like this and we see a response. It would be nice if we knew under what conditions it worked. It is like shooting dice. You never know the year you’re going to see the benefits of these fungicides. When corn is $7 or $8 you can put it on as a risk management tool, but when corn is $3.50 it is a different story. The speculation is that the longer you keep that corn green, the more opportunity you have to extend the filling period for corn. If you kept that canopy alive longer this year it may have translated into higher yields with the rains.”

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