Diseases are always a concern in crops across western Canada; Even in a drier condition year, there is still disease apparent in many fields across the prairies. High producing farmers need to know how to combat these diseases in the present year as well as begin to understand why the disease may be such a significant issue on their farm and what can be done in the future to mitigate any potential outbreaks. The “Disease Triangle” of host-pathogen-environment is critical, but needs to be taken a step further in farming in 2016 and beyond.
The first thing that needs to be done is correctly identify the disease that is occurring on your farm, or around your farm. You must also realize that not all diseases are created equal; Some are much more aggressive than others (eg: stripe rust more aggressive vs. tan spot) and can rob yield and quality much quicker and secondly there needs to be an understanding of polycyclic vs. mono cyclic diseases (sclerotinia & fusarium are monocyclic and tan spot and spot blotch for example are polycyclic). If you see a polycyclic disease beginning, there is generally still a chance to manage that disease (albeit there has already been some yield loss starting). If you see a monocyclic disease occurring you are already much too late and the opportunity for suppression or control with a fungicide has been missed.
Next, be sure to understand your crop and your varieties susceptibility to the disease. For example, if you are concerned about rust on your farm and you grow both hard red spring wheat and durum wheat, then which crop should you be checking first and planning to apply fungicide too? Durum actually is less susceptible to stripe rust than hard red spring wheat as a general rule. What about between varieties? Just like you or me are not equally susceptible to certain viruses or sicknesses, there is a varietal difference. For example, if you grow Lillian and Superb wheat, there actually is a higher risk of stripe rust in your Superb as it lacks some of the rust resistant genes.
Another critical component of disease susceptibility is your rotation and the conditions at times of disease infestation. Understanding the varying conditions that diseases thrive under can help you determine if there is a need for fungicidal management. Some prefer 24-28 degrees C conditions with specific humidity’s, while others prefer 18-21 degrees and high humidity. Always remember the micro climate within a crop as well! A tight rotation (eg: 1-2 years between the same crop) and an understanding of the conditions in previous crop years gives you insight into the potential risk moving ahead. This is where proper record keeping in a farm management platform removes the guessing aspect and can give you the confidence to know what kind of spore levels will be present in that field.
To help correctly identify and track plant disease, consider the Croptivity Scouting solution as your go-to tool. It includes an app that allow you to quickly and easily capture detailed field observations from any mobile device.
Lastly, if you have been using VRT on your farm you can identify the high pressure areas to look in first. The lush, high producing areas tend to have conditions where diseases begin and persist. The benefits in a disease scenario for using VRT on your farm ensures that your nutrition package in high yield areas matches the needs of those plants making them healthier and better able to fend off disease. It also insures you are not over applying nutrients that can lead to lodging which ultimately increases the spread of disease.
The days of guessing on fungicides and disease levels are beginning to move behind us. We have the technology, data and insight to be able to make proactive and informed decisions that will ultimately enhance profitability.