To keep the benefits, manage resistance

Weed resistance isn’t the only threat; let’s take care of fungicides

Fungicides grow more popular. Over the winter you probably had the opportunity to attend producer meetings in your area. And, you probably heard a company representative or an agronomist talk about the use of fungicides to increase yield. Most of the presentations promoted “plant health” or stress reduction as a way that fungicides help increase yield on your farm.

Interest in the use of foliar fungicides has increased since the highly publicized arrival of rust a few years ago. Until recently, use of fungicides had been limited to fields where diseases were known to be present as well as soybean and cornfields used for seed production.

The market introduction of strobilurins, a broad-spectrum fungicide registered for control of a number of foliar diseases across a number of crops, increased the adoption of fungicide use in our trade territory. However, the current trend in our trade territory and through the Midwest is toward an increased use of fungicides for “plant health.” That general description covers improved stress tolerance and growth efficiency to increase yields instead of simply disease management.

From my perspective, it might be useful to discuss what university research tells us about fungicide use on corn and soybeans and what strategies the row-crop industry is adopting.

Disease management
The highest probability of seeing an economic response from an application of a fungicide is in the presence of disease or when conditions are favorable for disease. Fungicide use in this scenario increases yield by eliminating or controlling yield-limiting diseases in your field when conditions are favorable for disease development.

Some of the factors that are favorable for diseases in corn include: susceptible hybrid, continuous corn, no-till, late planting, high plant population, high-yield scenarios, irrigation, disease activity at tasseling, disease favorable weather conditions, or a history of disease in the field.
Some of the factors that are favorable for diseases in soybean include: susceptible variety, early planting, historical disease presence, dense crop canopy, favorable weather conditions, irrigation or a continuous no-till soybean field.

With the factors listed above, you will see there is some overlap between the two systems, but there are also several differences listed for corn and soybean production. While decisions for fungicide use based off the two cropping systems cannot provide 100 percent accuracy, they will provide a baseline justification for use of fungicides.

Just as I have recommended in the past, you must be able to see if it works on your farm. When you are applying fungicides to a field with low risk it is always a good idea to leave a portion of the field untreated as a comparison to evaluate the use of fungicides on your farm.

“Plant health”
We have all heard the discussions about the use of fungicides for plant health. We have seen applications of fungicides on corn or soybeans stay greener longer. Does that always result in higher yield? I don’t believe it does 100 percent of the time. I have seen significant yield increases from applications of fungicides, but on the flip side, I have seen cases where there was no yield responses.

Some of the potential plant health attributes include, but are not limited to, greening effect, corn stalk strength and drought/stress recovery.
Most claims about the greening effect suggest if it is greener longer, its healthier. Yet, this effect can have a negative impact as well. It can slow or even delay harvest, and it may require grain drying after harvest.

Stalk quality appears to improve with the use of strobilurin fungicides. Some university research shows improved stalk strength after strobilurin use, even where disease pressure was low. More research is being conducted to validate industry claims.

Fungicide resistance
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about fungicide resistance. The use of any fungicide increases the risk for resistance. Anytime a fungus is exposed to a fungicide, even when fungal activity is low, the selection pressure on the fungus is increased toward resistance.
While there is no way to prevent every case of resistance to strobilurins and DMIs, we can hope to delay the development of resistance by minimizing the use of at-risk fungicides.

Factors that increase potential for fungicide resistance might include: repeated/overuse of fungicides of the same mode of action; applying half-rates of fungicides and applying fungicides when disease pressure is already high.

Most of the products on the market include two modes of action. Also, when you read the label of most fungicides, you will see it covers resistance management and the importance of utilizing resistance management strategies. Always read and follow the label.

I believe proper use fungicides are going to help us reach the full potential of our crops. If you have other yield-limiting factors eliminated on your farm and are looking for ways to potentially increase production, fungicides might be an option for you.

Scouting can be another way to avoid loss from diseases in your field. Again, leave a check strip on your farm so you can see the result in your fields. If you are looking for a proper fungicide program or a field scouting program, contact your local MFA retail location.

Dr. Jason Weirich is the MFA's director of agronomy. READ MORE by Dr. Weirich HERE.


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Good operators

Skill and care are top traits in MFA’s best applicators

We all are in for a more complicated life in the coming few years. New crop protection technology and formulations mean we have to pay attention to what goes in the sprayer, where the sprayer goes, which way the wind blows, how the sprayer is cleaned out, etc. These are things we already do, but one way we will pay for weed resistance is through more complicated logistics at application time. Being careful has always been important. It’s more important now. 

At MFA, we’ve stepped up our training to meet these challenges. One of the enjoyable parts of my job is to train our employees about new technology and how that technology gets used on our customers’ farms. It might sound like something boring, and it can be, but our applicators know it is important, and to watch them absorb new information knowing it will make our operations more successful is one of those pride moments that makes a job worth doing. 

To help our workforce stay up-to-date, this past year we implemented a recognition program called MFA Incorporated Operator of the Year. The program seeks nominations from throughout our trade territory to highlight MFA custom applicators who really excel at their job and in their community. We use this program to propel nominations to a national competition sponsored by AGCO. The AGCO Operator of the Year is announced each year at the Agricultural Retailers Association annual meeting. It’s a popular program, with a lot of participation. It is tough to win. Aside from a trip to the ARA meeting, AGCO Operator of the Year winner receives a top-end Harley Davidson or cash prize.

Mark Sharitz is director of marketing at AGCO Application Equipment. I liked what he said about the 2013 nominees for the national competition: 

“Every year, we are impressed by the high caliber of nominees for Operator of the Year. The hard work and precision of custom applicators across North America have a direct impact on farmers’ productivity and their ability to provide food, fiber and fuel to the world. While we can only select one annual winner, the real goal of this program is to recognize these professionals and demonstrate appreciation for the work they do.”

I don’t get to brag often enough on our applicators, so take a look at our 2013 MFA Incorporated Operator of the Year finalists. These are the guys that farmers request. They are doing a good job for you. 


Mike Welch  

AGChoice, Emporia, Kan. 

Years of service: 5

Annual acres: about 30,000

AGChoice Emporia manager Brian Creager said Welch is an operator who customers request when calling in an order. “He cares about the customer and their property,” said Creager, “He takes pride in the application. If conditions might affect application, he consults with the customer.” Welch keeps equipment clean and well-serviced to take advantage of good application weather. “If it is too wet, he will call the customer to let them know so it isn’t a surprise to anyone.” 

In his spare time, Welch restores vehicles and spends time on his Harley Davidson. 




MFA Agri Services Maysville, Mo. 

Years of service: 7

Annual acres: about 30,000

Aside from working hard to get product on the field, Flinn has trained other applicators at Maysville Agri Services. MFA manager Gerald Wheeler said Flinn is a top communicator with both customers and MFA, and always sure to notify both MFA and the customer of any problems or challenges he sees in fields. Flinn is dutiful to keep application equipment in top condition and ready for service. In the community, Flinn is president of the Sherman Township board of trustees, an assistant youth wrestling coach and a member of the Dekalb County Riders saddle club. 



Dusty Vanskike 

MFA Agri Services Centralia, Mo.

Years of service: 17 

Annual acres: about 30,000

Centralia MFA Agri Services assistant manager Brad Toedebusch said that Vanskike is one of those get-things-done-right employees that it is hard to put a value on. “There is never a question on whether application jobs are being done correctly and professionally when Vanskike is on the job, and I believe that is the true definition of reliability,” he said. Aside from crop protection, Vanskike took the lead on operating a four-compartment precision fertilizer applicator at Centralia. As new operators join Centralia Agri Services, they ride with Vanskike to get a firsthand view of how it is supposed to be done. 

In the community, Vanskike supports the local VFW Honor Flight and various veterans activities around Centralia. He volunteers for the Centralia Panther youth football league.



Phillip Snodgrass  

MFA Agri Services Higginsville, Mo.

Years of
service: 6

Annual Acres: about 40,000

Higginsville MFA Agri Services manager Bob Owen used a quote from a customer to describe Snodgrass: “I have been farming for almost 50 years and have seen dozens of applicators come and go. Snodgrass treats my farm as it if it were his own. The edges are burned back perfectly, and he kills weeds up to the edge of the waterways without killing the waterways. He takes his time and keeps his booms low.” Owen said that Snodgrass takes extra time at the end of the day, even during the long days of spring application, to wash, clean and fuel his machine so it is ready to go the next day. 

In the community, Snodgrass is active in Ducks Unlimited and National Wild Turkey Federation, and he spends time working a cow-calf herd on the family farm at Polo, Mo.



Lance McBryde  

MFA Agri Services Jackson, Mo.

Years of
service: 12

Annual acres: about 20,000

Manager of Jackson MFA Agri Services David Wichern said that the hills of Cape Girardeau County, Mo., represent a huge challenge for crop protection applicators. But McBryde excels at the task. He has taken the challenge of professional application on the rolling hills and odd-shaped fields and built on it by knowing field histories and being a go-to source of information for customers. McBryde takes pride in keeping customers up-to-date on which formulations will help negotiate weed resistance issues, which is one reason many customers call him directly with orders or questions. 

In the community, McBryde serves on the Cape Girardeau County Farm Bureau board of directors and supports local cattlemen events. He is also an auctioneer. 


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Training Camp delivers

A proving ground for products and teaching grounds for MFA

In 2012, MFA established a research and training program called Training Camp. Training Camp is used as a testing ground for new and existing fertility and crop protection products on corn and soybeans. We have also used this as a training site for retail staff across our trade territory. The first training camp was held in August 2012. We brought in 330 people, mostly MFA staff, to see the plots and demonstrations. The time spent at Training Camp allowed our employees to familiarize themselves with the issues of the growing season and better understand the products and seed and services in the MFA retail system. The second Training Camp was in July 2013 with 438 people in attendance.

In 2012 we split the Training Camp sites. The corn was near Boonville, Mo., and the soybean plots near Laddonia, Mo.

In 2013 we moved both corn and soybeans to Boonville. It allowed us to use the one location to better use the time that we had with our employees. I encourage you to ask your local managers and agronomist about their experience at Training Camp. Aside from MFA experts, we invited private industry seed, fertilizer and crop protection experts along with university weed specialists and agronomists. There was plenty to talk about.

In 2013 we also launched a variety testing protocol for MorCorn and MorSoy genetics. We placed these trials throughout our trade territory so we could see how our future lines will perform in different areas. These trials help our seed division determine what lines to bring forward and what lines may have holes or weaknesses. I have included the distribution and status of the trials in the following tables.

At Training Camp, we had variety, fungicide, foliar fertilizer, nitrogen timing, nitrogen-use-efficiency, phosphorus enhancement, tank contamination, spray drift, volatility and herbicide symptomology trials.

When you look at the data in the following charts, remember that any treatment that has the same letter following the yield showed no significant difference at P=0.10. This year is the first year of the data, and we will replicate these trials in 2014. We’ll continue to compile this information for a longer-term reference.

The nitrogen source and timing study turned out to be an interesting trial. We applied the “ATPLANT N” preemergence and the second application was at V6. After we planted corn trials, we had significant rain to incorporate the nitrogen. However, after the V6 timing, the rain had stopped. All ATPLANT treatments were statistically the same with the exception of ESN, showing that little to no nitrogen was lost from these treatments. In the ESN treatment, we applied 100 percent ESN. Agrium recommends 30 to 60 units of soluble nitrogen with ESN. With most nitrogen recommendations we use some form of a split application. Depending on the year, rain patterns and nitrogen source, yield can be significantly affected. I still recommend split applications in most situations to minimize nitrogen loss and boost utilization.

Our corn variety trial had 42 varieties. After we planted the corn, we spread 200 pounds per acre of nitrogen. Training Camp site soil fertility levels were optimal for P and K. This trial had some exceptional yields. These trials were in the river bottom ground near Boonville, Mo., on very good soil. They were all dryland.

After harvesting this trial and tabulating the data on the computer, I realized the yields were phenomenal. I had to double-check the weights of the plots to make sure that they were correct. While I don’t believe these are typical yields for this field I do believe that proper fertilization, weed control and management played a big part in achieving these high yields.
As we move into the 2014 growing season I will publish more results from our research site and in the fall of 2014 look for some results with two years of data.

Dr. Jason Weirich is the Director of Agronomy at MFA Incorporated. READ MORE FROM DR. WEIRICH HERE


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For weed control, focus on doable, not miraculous

Poor control and weed resistance wait for our mistakes

Last year was yet another growing season for the record books. I commonly hear a saying among producers: “No two years are the same.” And I can offer another common saying in response: “Ain’t that the truth.”

In the past growing season, yields in some locations across our trade territory were better than they expected while others experienced low yields for the second year running. As we head into a new year, I am hopeful that this growing season will be a good one for all.

Overall, weed control across MFA’s territory during the 2013 growing season was better than I expected. But we still have to keep fighting. There are four major weeds that are considered “driver” weeds for most of our fields. They are waterhemp, Palmer amaranth, marestail and giant ragweed. The successful weed control we saw last year can be attributed to the increase use of pre-emergence herbicides and the fact that we started with cleaner fields. More importantly, we had timely rain to activate those residual herbicides. In 2012 we applied a lot of pre-emergence herbicides, but never received enough moisture to active them and provide the kind of weed control we needed.

Each herbicide requires different amounts of rainfall to activate depending on which compounds are in the herbicide. 

When we are making any post-emerge herbicide application we must be targeting weeds smaller than four inches

The overlapping-residual method is gaining speed across the trade territory. This is the use of a full rate of a pre-emerge herbicide applied at planting followed 20 to 30 days with a post-emerge application of another residual. The goal is to never let the weeds out of the ground. 

It’s a sound program, but I see a disconnect between perceptions, expectations and outcome at times. When people call with questions regarding post-emerge applications, I always ask how big the weeds have gotten. The typical response is four to six inches. Upon further investigation I often learned that the caller’s four to six inches is different than mine. 

When we are making any post-emerge herbicide application we must be targeting weeds smaller than four inches. This stands true for today’s technology as well as any new technology that is currently in the pipeline. Once the weed is taller than four inches the success rate of the application significantly decreases. Again, let’s fight them in the soil. Yes, we have to have Mother Nature’s help, but that is the best option we have. 

Liberty Link technology is also gaining speed across the territory. I hear a lot of success stories—and a few horror stories. We typically see good results when we are spraying at 15 to 20 gallons per acre with good coverage of the target species. 

What I don’t like to hear are the success/horror stories that go: “I can’t believe how big the weeds were that we killed.” (An agronomist’s nightmare.) This kind of application puts a significant amount of resistance pressure on the technology. We can’t afford to lose another technology. Our weed control system in a Liberty Link program still consists of a full rate of a pre-emergence herbicide followed by a residual tank mixed with Liberty. 

A new season

As you plan for the 2014 season, lets plan for success and utilize sound agronomic principles. A two-pass program in corn and soybean is here to stay. 

I mentioned in September that Steve Cromley left MFA for another company. I am glad to announce that Jason Worthington has accepted the staff agronomist position. He started with the agronomy staff this year.

Jason will be in charge of the CropTrak program for MFA. He will also be working on nutrient management plans, training, research and producer meetings. We look forward to the excitement and new ideas he will bring to the agronomy staff. Look forward to seeing some articles from him in the near future. 

In next month’s issue I will publish the results from our research site in Boonville along with the variety trials we had across the trade territory during the 2013 growing season. 

If you would like to develop a weed control program for your farm, please contact your local MFA agronomist. 

Dr. Jason Weirich is director of agronomy for MFA Incorporated.

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Meeting season is here

Use these opportunities to fine-tune your operation and let your vendors know what you need to make their products work

As we wrap up another growing season I hope it was a safe and profitable year for you and your operation.

Now that we are moving into the next growing season, you’ll probably be headed to another round of the end-of-the year meeting extravaganza. You may ask yourself: why do I need to attend the informational meetings that different companies promote? I hope to answer some of those questions for you in this month’s article.

Agricultural is changing and we must realize that the days of easy management are behind us. This past year we have had many struggles with weeds, diseases, insects and fertility to name a few.
MFA has a training program that educates our employees about the best IPM practices. We host seven winter trainings in Columbia Mo., for new employees as well as the seasoned veterans of the company.

This training starts with an introduction to agronomy, soil fertility, weed control, corn production, pasture and hay production, cover crops and scouting techniques. At these meetings, we use several industry, university and internal expertise to provide the best knowledge of current and future production practices.

MFA’s agronomy staff and other MFA employees travel the trade territory during the year to do educational meetings for our locations. I had the opportunity to do a lot of these this past year. Last year’s focus was weed resistance.

With the new technologies that are coming down the pipeline, crop management  is going to become more complicated than you or I would like.

After the drought of 2012 and the failure of our pre-emergence herbicides, weed control was a hot topic among crop farmers. As I am writing this article, we have put on a few producer meetings, and in those, the main topic has been soil fertility.

We took a three-day tour across Missouri stopping in Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis. One of our goals was to help educate MFA location managers and agronomist on the use of MicroEssentials. MicroEssentials is a fertilizer product that MFA currently sells and has an analysis of 12 N, 40 P2O5, 10 S (5 elemental and 5 sulfate) and 1 zinc. I mentioned this product in last month’s article on this page, and it has really generated a lot of calls. Another popular topic at meetings has been pasture and forage management when a grower intends to interseeding new forages. Two years of below-average forage production has made forage stand improvement a necessity. Cover crops have been a hot topic, too.

Regardless of the topic I hope that you will take time out of your busy schedule and attend producer meetings. These meetings provide you the opportunity to interact with the speakers and staff that work with you year-round.

It also allows you to ask questions that pertain to your farm or ranch and, with increased knowledge, I hope, increasing your production. I can’t speak for other meeting speakers, but when I talk at producer meetings my goal is to be strictly educational.

With the new technologies that are coming down the pipeline, crop management is going to become more complicated than you or I would like. During the meetings you attend, the speaker will learn just as much from you as you learn from them. That’s beneficial to everyone as we fine-tune our recommendations for new technology.

For example: when we are talking about these new technologies, you provide us with what information we need to collect or what hurdles we will need to clear before these technologies will be successful. Several fertilizer and chemical companies provide opportunities for you to learn about these technologies and practices. These are excellent resources to help make your farm return the most it can.

Many of you have interacted with the MFA agronomy team and got to know Steve Cromley very well.

Steve has been with MFA for the past eight years and has done a great job. He has contributed to Today’s Farmer in several issues. In Steve’s early years he focused on nutrient management plans and transitioned into a senior staff agronomist for the past three years. Steve accepted a position with another company at the end of September. We would like to wish Steve a smooth transition into his new role. He was a huge asset to MFA and will be greatly missed.

I look forward to seeing a lot of you over the meeting season. I enjoy every chance I get to interact with producers, and it is always my goal to help solve your problems.

Dr. Jason Weirich is director of agronomy for MFA Incorporated.

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