Disease risk has Prairie farmers spraying fungicides

Most western Canadian farmers have finished applying herbicides for the season, but aren’t finished spraying yet.

Producers are starting up fungicide spraying operations because the risk of disease in crops is high this season, an industry official said.

"The heat and the moisture we’ve got in the ground is keeping the plants wet at night," said Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan Association (APAS). "It’s perfect growing conditions for diseases."

Right now most producers across the Prairies are spraying fungicides to prevent against diseases such as late blight in potatoes, sclerotinia in canola and fusarium head blight in wheat.

Late blight causes rot in potatoes and sclerotinia causes canola to rot and shred, while fusarium head blight causes a fungus in wheat. All the diseases have the potential to greatly reduce yields.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba the main focus is spraying canola for disease, but in Alberta producers are more worried about diseases in wheat crops, said Lynn Jacobson, president of Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP) in Alberta.

Fungicide applications to wheat aren’t in full force quite yet in Alberta and Saskatchewan because the crop hasn’t headed enough to start spraying, Jacobson said. It needs to be at least 25 per cent to 75 per cent headed, or even into the flowering stage before being sprayed with fungicide.

So far there haven’t been a lot of issues with insects in any of the provinces but, farmers are going to be keeping a close eye on their crops and will spray pesticides if problems occur.

"There’s always a chance of getting diamondback larvae feeding on canola and things like that. They seem to come out of nowhere sometimes," said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) in Manitoba.

Most of the spraying across Western Canada is being done by ground, but some regions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are too wet to use the spraying trucks.

"If you do go in there with the ground spraying trucks, you’re trapping crop and you’re getting into the mud," Hall said.

More producers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are spraying aerially to avoid problems. The cost may be a little bit more expensive, but only by $1-$2 an acre, Jacobson said.

Spraying of fungicides overall is costly for producers, but in the end it’s worth it because there are more crops to sell and make profit from, Chorney said.

"It is very expensive but it usually has a very good payback because of the benefit that the crop gets in production from good disease control," he said.

More producers are aggressively fighting diseases this year because crop prices are very good, Hall said.

"If producers sell some crops for a really good price, they’re going to get as many bushels as they can," Hall said. "It doesn’t take too many bushels with the strong prices to offset the price of the fungicide."

— Commodity News Service Canada is a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

Related stories:
Don’t miss the boat when spraying for sclerotinia, July 3, 2012
Fungicide season has begun, June 6, 2012

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