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Fungicide is vital to intensive wheat management

The most valuable tool a winter wheat grower can use this spring is low-tech, inexpensive and simple to use. It's a pencil.

As temperatures climb and disease pathogens move northward, it's time to put that pencil to paper and determine if it makes sense to apply a fungicide to protect yield potential and maximize profitability.

"Typically, most Kansas growers want to look at what the yield potential is that they have out there, and then keep an eye south on Texas and Oklahoma to monitor rust development," says Dale Leikam, Ph.D., owner of Leikam AgroMax in Manhattan, Kan. "Also, they need to closely monitor the crop for other leaf diseases that might rob them of yield and profitability. Although the current economy doesn't help, if they have good yield potential, they will want to protect their crop."

Phil Needham, owner of Needham Ag Technology in Calhoun, Ky., said with 50- or 60-bushel yield potential, a fungicide pays for itself, even with low disease pressure. Although average yields may be lower in the High Plains, the same principles apply. That's because the agronomic and environmental conditions that promote top yields also are highly favorable to disease.

"As you look toward higher yield potential," Needham said, "you have a denser canopy, which is conducive to diseases. So being able to protect plants with a fungicide is an integral part of taking that potential to the bank."

Needham often recommends an early fungicide application at Feekes stage five or six, followed by Prosaro fungicide from Bayer CropScience as needed, to help ensure healthy fields, higher yields.

For the early season treatment, Stratego fungicide, which works well for tan spot suppression, provides effective and lasting control of a broad spectrum of other key leaf and stem diseases, including leaf rust, stripe rust, stem rust, powdery mildew, glume blotch, spot blotch and Septoria leaf blight.

In addition to effective disease control, it contributes to yields in other ways. Needham sees the benefits in his customers' fields. "Strobilurins allow the plant to make better use of nitrogen and use water more efficiently," he said.

Researchers have documented two reasons for this enhanced plant performance:

--One of the active ingredients in Stratego increases a plant's ability to tolerate stress. According to recent research, plants treated with Stratego are better able to tolerate water shortages.

--Levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the leaf are an indication of a plant's ability to ward off diseases. In university studies, higher levels of NO were present in plants treated with Stratego than in untreated plants or plants treated with other fungicides. This signals that Stratego boosts the plant's natural defense system.

Randy Myers, fungicide product manager for Bayer CropScience, reminded growers to monitor their fields closely this spring, track disease progression in states to the south and apply a foliar fungicide when leaf disease pressure reaches an economic threshold. If conditions are right for diseases to develop, applying Stratego is an investment that has proven to pay benefits through harvest. If the wheat is near heading, Prosaro fungicide provides broad-spectrum disease control, including one of the most devastating and hard-to-control diseases--Fusarium head blight, or scab.

For more information, call 866-99-BAYER (866-992-2937) or your local Bayer CropScience Cereal Expert representative, or visit www.cerealexperts.com.



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