From the Farm: Tar Spot


CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – Many farmers sustained lower corn yields this year because of the tar spot fungus. And seed companies say it will return again next year.

Jon Skinner with Beck’s Hybrids says there are several things you can do to mitigate the impact of tar spot, but don’t look for any resistant hybrids.

“Right now, we’re not using the term ‘resistance.’ We’re using ‘susceptible’ or ‘tolerant.’ In the genetics we have right now, with the maturities we deal with, there’s no known resistance to it in the genetic line,” Skinner said. “So we’re evaluating our products as they come to market, we’re looking at the susceptibility of certain products and giving them rankings so when our customers come to us and ask what the best hybrid to combat tar spot is, we have multiple locations’, multiple years’ worth of data to help them with that.”

So to fight it, that really puts all the weight on the shoulders of fungicide?

“Currently right now, fungicide is pulling a lot of the weight to combat tar spot, but there’s other things we can look at,” Skinner said. “We can look at nutrient availability, we can look at overall plant health through supplying adequate nutrients – nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus – to those plants and making sure we have a health foundation to start with, because adequate nutrients is going to increase your plant health and hopefully reduce the susceptibility of those products to tar spot.”

And as far as application of fungicides, Skinner hears about hitting it at tassel time and a little bit after. Is that still what his recommendation is?

“For the most part, yes, my recommendation is to hit it at that VT-R1 time frame. Over time at through our research at our Practical Farm Research site, we found that it that provides us with the highest ROI as well as the lowest ratings for diseases,” Skinner said. “Now with the injection or tar spot and southern rust coming in later, we’re starting to do some studies to see how late that application can still be profitable. Some early results this year are showing all the way out to the R-4 growth stage and we are still seeing positive yield and a positive return on investment by applying a fungicide when those diseases are present.”

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