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Dose of good news: Growers stayed on top of diseases in 2022

Peanut, cotton, corn and soybean growers were generally able to effectively control diseases despite weather favorable for spread.

Bob Kemerait, Plant Pathologist

November 14, 2022

4 Min Read
Brad Haire

Looking back at the 2022 crop season, many growers will remember the things that didn’t go well.  Visiting with county agents and farmers, I am constantly reminded of the challenges you face to produce a crop. 

“Johnny didn’t make it in today, and I need him to be here.” 

“I was supposed to spray that field a week ago and I can’t get in there.” 

“The price of diesel keeps going up and the price of cotton keeps going down. How come it never works the other way around?”

“The picker is tore up again.”

When you are the disease and nematode guy, it’s often tough to give good news to a grower.  Sometimes the best I can offer is, “Yeah, it’s not good, but it could have been a lot worse.”  This kind of encouragement doesn’t go a long way in endearing me to growers.

Still, there were good things this year. There was reason to be optimistic, despite the fact that peanut yields were off in some places and tomato spotted wilt was up.  Here is some of the good stuff as I saw it from my wheelhouse.

Early in 2022, I warned growers that availability of important fungicides would be limited in the upcoming season and could hamper disease management efforts. It seems our corn, soybean, cotton, and peanut farmers were able to get the fungicides they needed to protect their crop from disease.  All products may not have been available all the time, but growers were able to “mix and match” and to deploy effective management programs.  Rain could have created situations where disease control was lost (perfect for spread of diseases coupled with delays getting back into the field).  That this didn’t happen on a broad scale is indication that fungicide programs were effective and intact.

I saw fewer problems with leaf spot diseases on peanut in 2022 than I have in recent years.  It was not uncommon to find leaf spot, especially late leaf spot, in fields at the end of the season.  Still, I did not have an unusual number of calls to visit grower fields, despite that much our peanut acres received rain through much of the season.  My feeling is that growers understand how best to use the available tools to manage diseases like leaf spot.  My advice going into 2023 is that growers consult Peanut Rx to have an idea of how resistant a variety is to leaf spot, ensure you stay on an appropriate spray interval, which is not always “14 days”, protect the crop for the entirety of the season, and choose the appropriate products.  Choice of products becomes increasingly important as risk to disease increases.

White mold (southern stem rot) is a constant threat to peanut production in the southeastern United States. However, this disease was not overly problematic in 2022.  Reasons for this include abundant rain during the season which led to cooler temperatures, especially nighttime temperatures.  Also, growers were successful in piecing together effective fungicide programs.

In recent years, leaf diseases of cotton have become increasingly important in the southeastern United States.  Target spot and areolate milder can both cause significant yield loss if they occur early enough in the season and if the crop is not protected.  I observed fewer problematic fields to both areolate mildew and target spot in 2022, despite the wet weather which could have increased infection and spread.  Again, I believe that much of this was the result of judicious use of fungicides by cotton producers.

Because of heat and drought during the 2019 peanut harvest, aflatoxin and seed quality issues were a tremendous problem during the 2020 peanut season.  It was not uncommon for peanuts to be put into storage “looking good” only to come out of storage with low quality and high levels of aflatoxin.  Perhaps the best news is aflatoxin has been generally low in the 2022 peanut crop.  Hopefully this will help in the sale and trade of American-grown peanuts.

Farming is never easy and there were stumbling blocks throughout the 2022 season, not the least of which included increased costs of production, significant boll rot in early-planted cotton, and lower-than-expected yields for peanut farmers.  Despite all of this, there was good news. Peanut, cotton, corn, and soybean growers were generally able to effectively control diseases despite weather favorable for spread, and so far we have low levels of aflatoxin in the peanut crop.  The key points for 2023 are to stay the course and to remain vigilant; threats to the 2022 crop will return in 2023.

About the Author(s)

Bob Kemerait

Plant Pathologist, University of Georgia

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