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TIPS FOR MANAGING DROUGHT-STRESSED FIELDS

Jul 09, 2021

Jason Haegele, Winfield United Agronomy Manager shares tips for managing drought- stressed fields:

You can purchase the right equipment, seed and inputs to set your season up for success, but you can’t control the weather. Navigating the challenges of Mother Nature is one of trickiest parts of farming. This is especially true when it comes to managing crops through drought stress.
 
Lack of moisture impacts plant performance during all stages of growth. When it happens in early vegetative stages, crops tend to be more resilient. Fields experiencing prolonged drought conditions during tassel, pollination and grain fill have a much more difficult time recovering yield potential once it’s lost.
 
While you can’t make it rain during these critical times, there are ways to manage drought-stressed fields to help curb yield losses and keep corn growing strong between rainfalls.
Watch for signs of stress.
One way to tell if corn is severely stressed is leaf rolling. This response is typical during the hottest part of the day when temperatures are high. If leaves are rolled in the morning or during cool times that’s an indication you may need to take action.
Consider applying a biostimulant fertilizer.
Products like Voyagro biostimulant fertilizer use amino acids and other naturally occurring ingredients to enhance performance by triggering favorable responses in plant physiology. They signal the need to keep growing through dry weather to help minimize yield losses. The ideal time to apply biostimulants is slightly ahead of prolonged dry weather so crops are prepared, but they can still be effective after some drought conditions have set in.
Weigh the benefits of a strobilurin fungicide.
Strobilurin fungicides are proven to produce a positive impact on plant health outside of disease control. Plants naturally produce a hormone called ethylene that can reduce photosynthesis and growth, increase kernel abortion and drive fast maturation. Strobilurin fungicides slow the release of ethylene to help protect yields. Even if disease pressure is low, applying at tassel can encourage optimum pollination when moisture stress is high. Based on three years of field trials at multiple WinField United Answer Plot locations, data show an average return on investment of six to eight bushels per acre with this type of fungicide application when disease prevalence is very low.
Adding a product like MasterLock adjuvant to the tank with a fungicide will help you make the most of your fungicide application. MasterLock adjuvant optimizes droplet size to reduce drift potential and help ensure more product penetrates into the canopy. It also contains a surfactant to help cover more leaf surface area. In fact, data shows a 5.7-bushel per acre average yield increase in corn when MasterLock is added to the spray tank along with a fungicide, compared to using a fungicide alone.
Protect against spider mites.
Spider mite populations typically explode during periods of hot, dry weather. They move out of ditches quickly and can severely impact crops. Be sure to have an insecticide on hand that’s labeled for spider mites and be prepared to use a higher rate for full pest control.
Use data to make decisions.
While fungicides and biostimulant fertilizers encourage crop resilience, they do not replace the positive impacts of rainfall. WinField United’s R7® Field Forecasting Tool combines predictive weather models, agronomic practices, tissue testing and ground truthing to measure the health and performance of your crops. If yield potential is already degraded and forecasts look bleak, it may not make financial sense to apply products. This tool along with conversations with your local Centra Sota Crop Advisor can help you determine the right decision for your situation.


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