Cotton is going to be a valuable commodity this year and taking care to make optimum yields will be critical to overall profitability, which leads to an oft-asked question — do foliar-applied fungicides pay on cotton.

Tests across the Southeast have demonstrated that foliar applied fungicides effectively control a number of diseases that frequently hamper cotton plant development. Whether controlling theses diseases helps on the bottom line is another question.

The multi-state research project across the Cotton Belt recently took a look at the use of foliar fungicides. The results clearly changed some from state-to-state, but the general consensus was that fungicides do affect disease, but there was little correlation between disease management and yield.

Across the Southeast cotton acreage is up, but most of it was planted on the late side due to a lack of soil moisture at planting time. Pushing planting time back pushes bloom time back, affecting the timing of application of some foliar fungicides. Will the dryer conditions and later planting affect the need to use fungicides in cotton?

Virginia is expecting a 40-50 percent increase in cotton acreage this year and North Carolina 20-30 percent. Across much of the Carolina-Virginia Cotton Belt the increase in acreage will come from growers who haven’t grown cotton in a number of years or who have never grown it.

There is now a large body of research that indicates preventative fungicide treatments pay off consistently in wheat and in most years in corn and soybeans. In cotton, the benefits of using a fungicide as a preventative and yield enhancer are much less clear.

Growers new to cotton, or returning to cotton, may see the high value of the crop as a need to use foliar fungicides as part of their production program, but researchers across the Cotton Belt have not found evidence to support the need for preventative treatments.