Three Ways Research Helps Farmers Manage Diseases
Each growing season has its challenges, and this one is no different. Ohio farmers who planted crops late need to focus on making those yields count. This underscores the important role public university research plays in bringing new technology and strategies to the farm.
Dr. Anne Dorranceis a professor of soybean pathology at The Ohio State University (OSU) who specializes in soybean disease management. She is currently working on a multi-year study funded by the soybean checkoff to explore the connection between disease control and higher yields.
Her research consists of three parts: identifying seed sources with good resistance, understanding what works for disease management and then sharing treatment strategies with farmers.
“Part of what my lab focuses on is identifying genetics that carry resistance. In unusual years like this, a good resistance package can really carry plants through,” explained Dr. Dorrance.
She does the detailed work to determine resistance traits and shares the information with seed companies so they can focus on including them in their varieties. She collaborates closely with plant genomicist, Dr. Leah McHale, who breeds for all of the resistance they identify. Because of this checkoff-funded work, OSU has a nice pipeline to evaluate in the field.
It’s a similar process when it comes to developing disease management strategies. Private companies depend on Dr. Dorrance and her team to examine pathogen isolates and help them assess the effectiveness of fungicide products and usage.
“We spend so much time looking at pathogens and assessing diversity. We have a good idea of what will and won’t perform well in Ohio fields,” said Dr. Dorrance.
She and her team were some of the first to discover that treating seed with just one fungicide for soilborne pathogens isn’t an effective strategy. Two modes of action are needed. They also dropped everything during the 2018 harvest to examine soybean quality issues. After experimenting with different treatment combinations on contaminated seed, the team determined that disease management required two fungicide active ingredients to get the job done.
The most important part of what she does is transferring knowledge from the lab to the field. Despite the difficult season, she does see some opportunities.
“So far, we’ve dealt with a lot of seedling blight and root rot due to flooding injury. There’s still a chance some plants will re-root if they have first or second leaves,” explained Dr. Dorrance. “Replanting is not an option at this point. However, late-planted soybeans have the potential for high yields so good scouting and strategic treatment decisions are key.”
Dr. Dorrance advisesscouting fields after flowering or at tassel and watching for diseases like frogeye leaf spot, Southern canker, white mold, gray leaf spot and Northern corn leaf blight. Then make fungicide decisions based on whether or not the disease is present or reported in the area, yield potential and value of the crop i.e., price per bushel.
She is especially concerned about the impact of frogeye leaf spot, which can cause an 8-10 bushel loss when approximately 10% of the canopy is infected. Conditions may also be right for white mold.
“For late-planted soybeans, canopy closure at flowering coupled with cool nights can lead to white mold,” said Dr. Dorrance. “Those who planted a variety with white mold resistance don’t have to worry. However, farmers who didn’t should apply a fungicide as close to R1 as possible if rain persists.”
Did you know Ohio is home to the Center for Soybean Research? Read more about the important research happening right here at home.