Using weather and crop maturity data to assess pathogen problems

Addison Boatwright

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T
here is no way to predict what the weather will deal your fields this year, and how exactly it will impact your crop. But tools are becoming more and more capable of helping farmers eliminate the guesswork when it comes to managing fields in whatever conditions Mother Nature serves up. 

It all starts with having field-level data - starting in the soil - that is specific to your fields (not the nearest NOAA weather station). Coupling that data from your fields with crop maturity models can help you understand what is currently happening in your fields. Looking at this data together is important because throughout the growing season, certain pathogens, pests and diseases can flourish when particular weather events occur during a crop's growing cycle.

We’ve compiled a few instances where knowing the current weather and maturity of your fields can, at the very least, give you a heads up about what threats are present and how to proceed forward. (Or you can download a quick information sheet.)

  • Preventing certain pathogens can begin right at the start. Soil temperature plays a big role in timing of planting. Both Seedling Blight in corn and Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in soybeans can be minimized by planting when soil temperatures are consistently above 55°F and soil is not too saturated. 

  • Wind damage from corn relies on a number of factors, including plant date, genetics, stalk rot, borer injury, and exposure. According to a paper from Penn State University, fields planted late in the season can see a significantly higher amount of damage in some areas. Brittle Snap, which occurs in high winds, occurs most frequently during V5 and V8, and then again from V12 to R1. Field weather stations monitor and record the wind speed and gusts in your fields, so you can anticipate damage from risks like Brittle Snap. 

  • Soil moisture data can indicate if a plant is water-stressed and more vulnerable to many pathogens. Anthracrose Stalk Rot occurs can occur anytime after pollination when weather conditions are dry and hot and the plant is already suffering from stress due to lack of water. The disease is very visible by late season. 

  • Both Gibberella (Gibb) Ear Rot and Diplodia Ear Rot infect in corn around R1 (silking), especially when temperatures are warm (not hot) with a high humidity. The two rots manifest themselves most later in the season near harvest, especially if it's a wet fall or delayed harvest due to rain. 

  • Harvest is when crops are susceptible to many other pathogens, which vary from the crop and the weather conditions. Just as Gibb and Diplodia Ear Rot thrive on corn during wet harvests, there have been several Vomitoxin instances in the past few years on wheat that is harvested late in high-moisture and mild temperatures. On the opposite end, Penicillium Ear Rot and some Aspergillus species occur late in the season in hot, dry weather. They infect through injury sustained from things like high winds, hail or insects.  

  • Having a very clear understanding of your weather conditions can also save on application loss. Urea-ammonium nitrate applied across the surface of a field is susceptible to large amounts of nitrogen loss when coupled with dry, warm weather. This article also cites Penn State research, stating that if an application is not followed by at least a half inch of rainfall, up to a third of that nitrogen can be lost due to volatilization. 

  • Pests and pathogens vary across the nation and by crop. We recommend reviewing what might be a threat in your areahere at the American Phytopathological Society's website.

It's easy to see that timing is everything when it comes to crop disease and damage. If weather conditions are just right when a crop is at a certain growth stage, it's beneficial to be aware and prepared for the risks that face your fields.  Download a free information sheet which recaps instances like those above when conditions are ripe for pathogens to strike. 

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Understanding your field's conditions is one of the reasons IntelliFarms developed our FieldDataManager weather station and soil probe network. Having the power of real-time field data can help you make management decisions that generate efficiencies and reduce crop loss. Contact us to learn more about how FieldDataManager can serve your operation.