Dakota Farmer

A mild winter means increased disease pressure, or does it?

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

March 29, 2024

2 Min Read
Sprayer treating soybean field
WINTER WEATHER: While some might think a warm winter means a higher chance of disease in 2024, the mild conditions shouldn’t change fungicide decisions. oticki/Getty Images

A mild winter across the Northern Plains with minimal snow cover may leave farmers wondering if the chance for disease will increase this growing season. But what do the experts say?

Matt Geiger, agronomic service representative for Syngenta, says that even if the disease risk is greater, it shouldn’t change management decisions. “There’s this theory that a mild winter could cause heavier disease coming forward, maybe because of less spore death over the winter,” he says. “Even if that was the case, it should not change your fungicide decisions.”

He says the same could be said for a colder winter. “Even during a cold winter, there’s enough inoculum out there where you could get enough disease to warrant spraying a fungicide,” he explains. “Theoretically, both could be true, but it shouldn’t influence management decisions.

Scout for diseases

Tar spot is on the rise and moving north, and Geiger says this is one disease to always scout for. “It can be very devastating, and it’s really dependent on the weather, as wet years can drive the tar spot development,” he says. “It’s just good to plan on spraying a fungicide regardless of conditions, because you’re protected from disease and plant health also benefits.”

In soybean fields, Geiger says to scout for septoria brown spot and white mold. For farms that are seeing an increase in such diseases, their fungicide plan should be altered, he says.

“If a farmer is more along the lines that they want to scout and spray, they can look at the weather and see if they’re getting long periods of leaf wetness,” he says. “That’s rain or heavy dew in the morning.”

This matters especially with diseases such as tar spot, which has seen an increase in development with seven or more hours of leaf wetness. “This is a disease you want to get ahead of, you don’t want to treat it after,” he says.

Technology is constantly changing, especially in the agriculture industry, and Geiger encourages farmers to try these modern fungicide chemistries, such as Miravis Top, Miravis Neo or Trivapro on corn and soybeans.

“Try these monitoring chemistries and apply them at the appropriate time, as timing is critical when it comes to applying fungicides,” Geiger says. “We’ve seen 8- to 10-bushel yield responses in soybean if sprayed at the right time. And if you spray too, late it could be more like 2 or 3.”

All in all, don’t let the winter dictate what changes you make to your fungicide plan, but don’t be afraid to try something new on your farm. For more information about these products and more from Syngenta, contact your local dealer.

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About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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