As we enter the heart of the growing season and crops are rapidly maturing, the battle to protect yield from pest and disease threats moves into high gear. Fungal diseases are one of those yield-robbing dangers, and when their presence is detected and conditions are right, timely application of fungicide to protect yields is critical.
Among the fungicide application options available to growers, one that can easily be overlooked—fungigation—might be the best option for those with irrigation systems.
“Fungigation is an excellent way to deliver fungicide to your crops,” affirms Erki Tribelhorn, CEO of Agri-Inject, a leading manufacturer of irrigation injection equipment and software. “One of the greatest advantages is that the farmer is in control. Once the need for fungicide application is determined, treatment can begin almost immediately. You don’t have to wait to get on an applicator’s schedule, for an airplane to become available, or for the weather to clear.”
Tribelhorn notes that the effectiveness of fungicide application through fungigation has been proven in numerous studies and through more than 40 years of farmer experience. He cites more recent studies from Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Nebraska (UNL) that demonstrate the benefits of fungicide application through irrigation systems. The WSU study focused on the management of potato late blight, and the results indicated that the benefits of fungigation don’t end with timeliness.
When compared to both air (airplane or helicopter) and ground (booms attached to self-contained or tractor-pulled equipment), fungigation was the least expensive application method and provided the most uniform distribution of fungicide through the leaf canopy.
The study also noted that an integrated approach—using both air application and fungigation—can also provide effective disease control.
“There were some additional benefits of fungigation—the ability to apply fungicides effectively in moderately windy conditions and to apply near obstacles like trees and powerlines—that were noted in the Washington State study,” Tribelhorn adds.
The Nebraska study compared the effectiveness of fungicide applied by ground boom and fungigation in controlling septoria brown spot in soybeans. The study found that brown spot severity was reduced in plots receiving fungicide via fungigation, but not in plots receiving other treatments. Similar studies conducted by both universities and chemical manufacturers have demonstrated that fungigation provides disease control that is equal to or better than that provided by other application methods in a wide variety of crops, including tomatoes, cucumbers, soybeans, potatoes, sugar beets, peanuts, onions, collard and spinach.
“If you have an irrigation system in place and want the highest level of control over timing, effectiveness and cost, utilizing a system to inject fungicides into irrigation water makes sense,” Tribelhorn concludes. “It’s definitely an option to consider.”