For peanut producers, disease management is a critical factor in sustainability, he says.

“The best management programs may not give you absolute control. You may not clean up every leaf spot or every incidence of white mold in a field. Best management practices will integrate cultural ideas methods such as planting resistant varieties, and they also will look at the optimal use of fungicides.”

Growers cannot reduce their reliance on fungicides and nematicides if they don’t reduce their risks, says Kemerait. “We have to optimize our application strategies. If we want sustainable, and we want to continue using our inputs, then we have to do what we do better. That’ll reduce costs and risks.”

All peanut producers can do what they already do better in terms of managing diseases, says Kemerait.

“Best management practices require timeliness, calibration, attention to rates, the proper disposal of containers, and complete attention to the label. We also want to use innovative technologies and strategies. All of these things will make our peanut disease management more sustainable.”

One tool for accomplishing sustainability in peanut disease management is the Peanut Rx risk index, he says.

“Peanut Rx is a branded symbol that shows that peanut producers in the Southeast U.S. are already practicing sustainable agriculture and sustainable disease management.”

Tomato spotted wilt virus, early and late leaf spot, CBR, white mold or stem rod are the enemies of Southeastern peanut growers, says Kemerait.

“If we’re going to continue to be sustainable in producing peanuts in an economic fashion, then we have to be able to manage those, in addition to peanut root-knot nematodes. We have to be able to manage all of these pests to be sustainable.”

Requirements of sustainable peanut disease management include crop rotation, resistant varieties, tillage systems, using peanut prescriptions in risk management programs, and the careful selection of fungicides and nematicides, he says.

“This means using the ones that are most likely to give the control you need and most likely to give you the best return on your investment.”

Resistance management also is important, he adds. As azoxystrobin goes off patent, growers have to be even more diligent about resistance management, says Kemerait.

“General plant health management also is crucial in sustainability. You’ve also got to manage fertility, weed pressure and all of those other things because a healthier plant is more resistant to disease.”

Kemerait urges growers to consider those factors in Peanut Rx that’ll allow them to take the pressure off of their reliance on fungicides. “By taking the reliance off of fungicides, you give yourself a better opportunity to get improved disease management and to get better fungicide efficacy.”

Crop rotation remains the foundation of any disease control program, he says. “We’d like for you to be out of a peanut field for two years. Three years is better, and four years is even better than that. But it’s not only being out of the field with peanuts, it’s what you plant in the place of peanuts. If you have the choice of planting soybeans or corn, which one will give you better returns in your operation?

“Obviously, corn will since soybeans share some of the same nematodes and pathogens. So rotation is a cornerstone in terms of sustainable disease management.”

Great strides have been made in breeding disease resistance into new varieties, says Kemerait. “Leaf spot resistance, white mold resistance, nematode resistance – resistant varieties allow us a greater opportunity on the fungicide program we choose to use. An example is the variety Tifguard, which has resistance to the peanut root-knot nematode. So simply choosing a variety with greater resistance gives you more flexibility in all of your other production practices as well as your choice of nematicides and fungicides.”