Monday, May 9, 2011

Flying on Fungicide in Wheat

$35.00/acre, give or take. That's what we're up against. Flying on fungicide in local wheat, while expensive, may be necessary this year, as the rains butted up against head emergence and flowering in wheat, exposing acres to the risk of Fusarium head blight (FHB). FHB infects and quickly ruins a wheat plant for any commercial use by rendering spikelets useless and accumulating mycotoxins that are dangerous to consume.

What makes an application of fungicide so expensive? Look for low flying yellow planes in the next few days. Wheat cannot be driven through at this point without a significant loss of yield, so the fungicide must be applied via plane at a higher cost.

Do the economics side with spraying? Even with a high risk of infection, the economics are a bit more difficult to justify. Assuming the risk turns real, total loss of a field is not out of the question. In this case, it is most likely justified to absorb the cost of spraying. If infection were not to occur, or not to be very severe, taking a DON dock at the elevator may be preferential to the extra cost. Either way, waiting until disease is present is not a wholly viable option. There is no curative for FHB, only preventatives. Those qualified to fly on fungicide will also get much more busy should FHB be found in the area.

For more information on fungicide decision-making, Purdue Extension specialist Kiersten Wise has a nice write-up in the latest Purdue Pest and Crop Newsletter.

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