How No-Tillers Can Slam The Door On Crop Diseases

Crop rotation, seed selection and scouting are among the steps you can take to keep residue-laden no-till fields from harboring soilborne diseases that curtail yields.

Since no-till was first pioneered several decades ago, changes in equipment and practices have helped farmers get more consistent results from the practice.

But there are still challenges today for no-tillers, including managing residue properly and controlling diseases, insect pests and weeds that flourish in this habitat.

While residue layers certainly protect against erosion and build more stable soil carbon, residue can also slow the warming and drying of soils.

This reduced warming and drying can impact germination, emergence and early vigor, and also host a number of diseases that impact crops.

The continuous presence of residue doesn’t increase disease just by harboring fungi. Reduced soil temperatures and slow drying increases humidity in the soil — two factors favorable to many soilborne diseases.

Seedling Diseases. Seedling-disease pathogens like pythium, phytophthora, rhizoctonia and fusarium are common in the soil when there are either cool and moist or warm and moist conditions, and this is where damping off can develop.

Today’s fungicide seed-treatment cocktails, with a mix of active ingredients, can protect seeds and seedlings from damping-off diseases.

Consider combining appropriate seed-treatment chemistries with crop varieties that are both tolerant to conditions prevalent in no-tilling, and have strong seedling-vigor scores.

Row cleaners can also clear bands of residue away from the top of the furrow, minimizing the risk of damping off.

Stem And Foliar Issues. Many stem and foliar diseases caused by soil-borne pathogens depend on residue for survival and serve as a source for inoculum production next season.

In the case…

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Davidson daniel

Daniel Davidson

Veteran farm advisor and agronomist Daniel Davidson no-tills near Stanton, Nebraska, and works as a private consultant.

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