In farming, as in life, timing can be everything. Just ask Randy Kitts.
The Grant County, Ind., farmer, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on 580 acres near Marion, discovered how applying fungicide at exactly the right moment provided his wheat crop the protection it needed from fungal foes to grow stronger and more productive.
"We've had some problems with head scab in our crop," Kitts says. "I started working with Kiersten Wise of Purdue on when to spray fungicide. She said the best time to spray is when the wheat heads are out and flowering, and able to accept the fungicide."
Wise's advice proved sound when Kitts applied fungicide on a field where some grain heads had emerged and others had not. After the fungicide application the nonemerged plants exhibited signs of Fusarium head blight — or scab — infection, which shrivels plants and shrinks grain size. Their head-blossomed neighbors looked healthier.
"Kiersten was right on," Kitts says. "I noticed about a 10-bushel-an-acre difference in those sprayed at the right time and those that were not. With that kind of yield difference you're talking about an additional 80 bucks or so an acre. That's quite a bit for a farmer."
An associate professor and Purdue Extension specialist in botany and plant pathology, Wise travels Indiana helping farmers identify and manage crop diseases. The knowledge she shares often comes from scientific research she and other Purdue crop and livestock specialists conduct at Purdue agricultural research centers.
"The fungicide research we've done at the Purdue farms in recent years is in response to the increase in corn, soybean and wheat prices farmers are receiving," Wise says. "Because farmers are receiving higher prices for their crops, they are able to use more inputs, like fungicide, on those crops to protect them against potential yield losses. In some cases, growers are applying fungicide because those products have been promoted as having additional crop benefits beyond disease control. Field research can help us show whether or not that is the case."