Strategic Peanut Disease Control for Best Production and Profits

The right peanut disease control program helps growers optimize production.

For peanut growers, the challenge is always on. Recent record crops have stocked the market and reduced contract prices. Peanut growers are up against disease threats every year and profit margins are perennially narrow. Production must be optimized to capture needed returns — and that likely means fine-tuning disease management programs is necessary.

Bond McInnes, Ph.D., fungicide technical manager with DuPont Crop Protection, says that when market prices are low, building the right fungicide program becomes more critical than ever. “That’s the key to remaining profitable when prices are not as robust as you would like.”

Bob Kemerait, Ph.D., plant pathologist and extension specialist, University of Georgia, and McInnes outline steps growers can take to help increase return on investment in what will likely be a challenging year for peanut production profits.

Plan Ahead

Unseasonably warm temperatures can affect plant health. “If temperatures continue to be above average, white mold will be a primary threat,” says Kemerait. “By anticipating the weather and its effect on disease pressure, growers can plan for the most targeted and effective peanut disease control solutions.”

Kemerait points to the Peanut Rx program developed by university researchers from Georgia, Alabama and Florida as a valuable tool to help peanut growers plan for the best growing season. The program uses field history, seed variety, crop rotation and other factors to determine the risk of infection from a particular disease and prescribe customized fungicide recommendations.

“The Peanut Rx program helps growers incorporate more premium and powerful products in the most cost-effective way,” says Kemerait. “If the analysis indicates that crops have a lower risk for certain diseases, companies such as DuPont will stand behind fewer fungicide applications.”

Choose the Right Disease Management Program

The ideal peanut disease control program targets production-limiting diseases with the fewest fungicide applications. Balancing generic options with fungicides that have strong, powerful coverage is one way to achieve effective control and save input costs.

One effective strategy is to start with a low-cost foliar spray such as tebuconozole 30 to 40 days after planting to protect crops from leaf spot. Then, during the heart of the growing season, follow up with a highly effective, preventive fungicide product such as DuPont Fontelis® fungicide to target soil-borne diseases including white mold (Southern stem rot) and Rhizoctonia limb rot while providing superior foliar leaf spot control.

“Applied 60 to 105 days after planting, Fontelis® delivers powerful foliar control while protecting roots and pods and to help maximize yield potential,” says McInnes. He adds that Fontelis® can provide more power in a three-block spray or an alternating program than with fungicides that are currently on the market.  And the new active ingredient in Fontelis makes it an ideal rotation partner, allowing growers to fill in with other products to promote resistance management while managing costs.

Kemerait notes that rotation flexibility is a critical factor when selecting a fungicide program. “We want to keep the fungicides we have active and efficacious for as many years as possible,” he says. “One way to do that is to rotate chemistries. Fontelis® offers that flexibility and fits well in resistance management programs.”

Make the Most of Every Application

Both Kemerait and McInnes emphasize that whatever fungicide program a grower chooses, the most important thing is to make the most of every application.

“Growers cannot afford to waste an ounce of their crop protection investment,” says Kemerait. “That means preparing well for each pass through the field.”

Preparation starts with diligent scouting to pinpoint optimum application timing. Proper equipment setup is also critical. “Adjust calibration, make wise nozzle selections and consider adding adjuvants to enhance spray coverage and efficacy,” advises Kemerait. “Doing the homework and getting the details right will help growers get the maximum benefit from every application.”

When possible, combine fungicide applications with insecticide, herbicide or foliar nutrition applications to enhance efficiency. “The benefit of a flexible product like Fontelis® is that it makes an excellent tank-mix partner, reducing trips through the field and saving fuel, labor and time,” says McInnes. He adds that the fungicide’s curative control adds an extra layer of protection when dealing with less-than-ideal application timing.

“Even with the best-laid plans, the business of farming requires dealing with the unexpected,” McInnes says. “When equipment failures or weather events delay an application, it pays to have a flexible product in the tank that can clean up any established diseases while providing preventive control to see you through to the next application.”