The Importance of Fungicide (and Copper) for Wheat

Mar 29, 2023

Article Provided by: Jared Jones
We are nearing the time of year where soon we will be making our final applications on the 2023 wheat crop. There are many decisions throughout the wheat growing season that impact the overall success of the crop but whether or not to apply wheat fungicide tends to be the last decision that is made that the grower has control over. Sometimes trying to decide IF you should apply fungicide to your wheat doesn’t allow you to make the application at the optimal time. In my experience, making that decision in advance with the option of pulling back if we have a looming crop failure, has given the most benefit to the grower because they tend to focus on the optimal timing of that application as opposed to whether or not they should apply fungicide at all.
Obviously, when disease is present to our south, we have a better idea of how much benefit the fungicide is going to provide. However, over the years we have learned that even in the absence of heavy disease pressure, we are still getting a yield response by making fungicide applications and maintaining the overall plant health. This is important every year, regardless of disease pressure. I would also argue that many of the varieties we are growing today do not contain as much natural disease resistance as varieties we have grown in the past. Maintaining the plant health in a wheat crop as we go through the critical growth stages in late spring and early summer can be very impactful to overall yield potential.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering a wheat fungicide is to realize that not all fungicides are created equal. There are many options today. It is important to know the differences in what is offered and how that might affect how you manage the timing of the application. The length of residual can also vary between products so it is helpful to work with someone that can explain those differences and find a product that fits your expectations.
While we are always looking for ways to improve yield, one thing we are learning more about every year is the impact of Copper to improve yield potential when applied along with a fungicide at the flag leaf stage. Since 2017, we have been conducting local trials by applying Copper with the fungicide at the flag leaf application. These trials have shown positive results. It needs to be considered as an addition to our wheat management plans. Copper deficiency is common to see in our area as the wheat breaks dormancy in the spring.
You might be asking yourself, “what role does Copper play in wheat?” Copper is an enzyme activator that is used for protein production in the plant. In Wheat, Copper is essential for pollination and helps with the plant’s immune system and plant health. This is why the foliar Copper application at the flag leaf stage is so impactful.
As we near the spring season and get closer to making the final decisions for the 2023 wheat crop, please reach out to your SAM or MKC location contact and make plans now to have the right products in place when the time comes to make these fungicide applications. Don’t forget the importance of adding Copper to the mix so you can maximize your investment and grow as many bushels as mother nature will allow!

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