For years, root rot has been a serious problem on some fields. “I told Doug and Matt several years ago that someday we would come up with something to control root rot,” he says. “We’ve been working on it for seven years.”

One field near his home has a heavy root rot infestation. He wryly says it could be considered a “root rot nursery.” He turned the field over to Texas AgriLife Research and Extension to use as a trial for various fungicides and treatment methods, attempting to identify something to help manage the damaging disease.

Tom Isakeit, Extension plant pathologist at San Angelo, and Rick Minzenmayer, Extension integrated pest management specialist for the area, began screening fungicides and application methods about seven years ago.

“They started with Tilt,” Wilde says. That one didn’t work. “But Dr. Isakeit had a lot of fungicides. He started with drenching applications; then we cut the drip tape at the upper and lower end of the field.” That allowed Isakeit and Minzenmayer to test a number of products at various rates through the irrigation system.

“The first year, we had no result,” Wilde says. But in the second year they identified Topguard, a Cheminova fungicide, as a potential control material. They started with 4 pounds per acre, a high rate they thought would be too high for registration. They also tested new application methods, and discovered a technique that included at-planting application at rates much lower than the initial trials.

“Now, the recommended rate is one-fourth pound,” Wilde says. Last year, the EPA issued an emergency exemption for Topguard on cotton to control root rot. That exemption was recently extended for 2013.

Wilde, Doug and Matt made that field available for seven years to help identify a root rot control agent. Although they lost some yield, it was worth the sacrifice, he says.

“We had tried a lot of things to control root rot — sulfur, anhydrous, deep tillage, rotation. Some were not cost-effective. With drip irrigation, we can’t moldboard plow. We tried to keep the plants healthy, but whatever we did was never enough.”

Root rot may reduce yield by 50 percent or more, and also decreases quality and creates harvest problems. “We get a lot of barky cotton, and during harvest stalks pull up and clog the stripper. The operator has to get off and on the machine all day. Risk of stripper fire also increases with root rot infestations.”

Wilde treated almost all his cotton with Topguard in 2012. “I can drive by a field and tell the difference,” he says.  “This material has been a blessing — it’s helping. We were persistent in looking for control; we aren’t quitters, and we know the value of a fungicide that controls root rot.”

That field trial is not the only test plot on his farm. “Sometimes I think my whole farm is a test,” he says. He’s allocated significant acreage for variety trials for many years, with all major seed companies participating. Information from the trials gives him confidence in selecting varieties suited to his growing conditions.

“These trials get to the bottom line,” he says. “We get yields and grades, and we get a value for each variety. That’s what matters.”