“Some growers are uncomfortable with this practice and don’t believe they can manage the system. As is the case with all new practices, it is best start off with a limited number of acres, but most growers will actually be surprised how easy this system is to manage and the fact you actually have more flexibility than with most other practices,” Culpepper said.

Fungicides find bigger role on Southeast farms

With the increase in some commodity prices, the introduction of new diseases, and old ones getting worse, Southern farmers see the benefits of what a well-timed fungicide can do to protect yields.

Anyone who grows peanuts knows the need for fungicides, which the crop needs on a consistent schedule seven or eight times a season. But in recent years, Southern farmers have increasingly used fungicides on corn, cotton and soybeans and, it is working for them, Chafin said, and it’s working at the Sunbelt farm site.

“We have had, for the last few years, several trials on using fungicides to protect or even increase yields in corn and to see what well-timed fungicide applications can do to protect corn and cotton against what can be some devastating diseases,” said Chafin.

“Regardless of the fungicides you use, the end result can be economical for growers in certain situations.”

Less than a decade ago, UGA Extension specialists had limited recommendations for treating soybeans and field corn with fungicides, and certainly had none for cotton. “Today, my message to our corn and soybean producers is that each should anticipate and plan for at least a single fungicide application early in reproductive growth (first tassel, late bloom or early pod set),” said Bob Kemerait, University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist.

Where weather favors disease, crop growth is robust, and prices are excellent, “growers are wise to follow up with an additional fungicide application,” he said.

With the cool, wet start to planting this year, Kemerait said, Northern corn leaf blight showed up in early May, the earliest it has ever appeared in Georgia, setting the stage for fungicides in corn.

And where rust is a problem, he said, a single fungicide application on corn can increase yields by 10 bushels per acre; even more for soybeans.