Whoomp! There it is! What to do about Tar Spot of Corn in 2024

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Over the last several weeks we have seen confirmed positives for tar spot in parts of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and now Wisconsin (Pepin Co.; Fig. 1). While it has been found in Wisconsin, the severity and incidence are extremely low and does not necessitate spraying fungicide at the moment! So, what should we do now?

My advice is to get prepared and make sure you have the tools in place to deal with this problem. As I said the last few seasons, tar spot is here to stay and we need to simply be prepared and ready to fight the disease. The first line of defense is to know if you have had tar spot before. This will tell you if there is resident inoculum sources present that can initiate epidemics. If you have seen tar spot on your farm before, then assume the pathogen is present and in close proximity to corn (the host). Remember the disease triangle? The last component of the triangle is the weather. If there has been conducive weather then the triangle has been met and risk is high for finding tar spot. So how do you know if the weather is conducive? Well, there is an app for that!

Tarspotter and Field Prophet are both Smartphone applications that can help you determine if the weather has been conducive to put your corn crop at high risk of tar spot development. The app DOES NOT tell you if the pathogen is present. We are working on this part of the triangle to improve our predictions, but you need to determine if the pathogen is present in your field. This tool just tells you if the weather has been conducive.

So what weather is conducive for tar spot development? Yes, precipitation is helpful, but more importantly, we need intermittent wet/dry cycles to give us intermittent leaf wetness. Specifically leaf wetness at night. What gives leaf wetness this time of year other than rain? That would be high dew points and humidity. These variables are included in the models that run in Tarspotter and Field Prophet. We also include temperature which is an influential variable too. These variables are measured over the last 14 days and 30 days and included in each daily run of the tool. We use the GPS on the smartphone to pull down cloud-based weather for a precise location. Thus, these results are site-specific. I also like to the use the Field Prophet version of the models as this version provides a 7-day trend line on how weather has been progressing and also allows for a true 7-day forecast. These additional tools can better help with the decision-making process. If you would like to learn more about the “nuts and bolts” that run behind the smartphone apps, you can find our research publication HERE.

My corn is at V8-V10, should I spray Fungicide?

Figure 2. Tar spot severity diagram indicating various levels of tar spot on corn leaves. Yield loss isn’t typically detectable in the field until severity reaches 10% or more on the ear leaf or leaves above this leaf.

My short answer is no! The disease is just getting started. If you find it in Wisconsin right now, it will be at low severity and is low in the canopy on leaves that are not going to contribute to yield. My advice is to use your prior knowledge of where tar spot occurred and the Tarspotter tool to help guide your scouting efforts. Get out into the fields and know what you are dealing with. Figure 2 shows various severity levels on a corn leaf. We don’t start to see yield loss until we reach about 10% severity on the ear leaves or above. Thus, you have time! Target fields planted to known susceptible hybrids. Get yourself prepared and use those lower leaves to monitor severity and tar spot progress. Be ready to protect (put fungicide on) those leaves that contribute to yield (ear leaf and above), later on especially if the weather becomes increasingly conducive (think wet/dry cycles!) and/or your scouting indicates severity is increasing.

When should I spray fungicide? What should I use?

When making decisions on using a fungicide for tar spot management keep in mind that fungicide active ingredients are important. Products with multiple fungicide classes are preferred (QoI + DMI or QoI + DMI + SDHI). Products with multiple fungicide classes tend to provide better efficacy and delay the development of fungicide resistance. See the CPN Fungicide Efficacy Guide for specific products and their ratings for tar spot and other diseases.

Application timing is very important for tar spot management. It is best to use scouting and/or tar spot risk or profit tools like Tarspotter and Field Prophet to make informed decisions about when to apply fungicides for tar spot management. These apps use weather data to determine if the environmental conditions are favorable for tar spot to develop, and consequently optimize fungicide application timing.

In most years, a fungicide application will not be needed prior to the V10 growth stage. In most years, one well-timed (VT-R3 growth stages) fungicide will be sufficient to manage tar spot. Even in years where two applications appear to improve tar spot control, improved ROI is marginal over a single well-timed application.

The Conclusion

DON’T PANIC! This is just a call to be ready. Download the apps and know what the weather is doing. Use your prior knowledge and scouting in key locations to track tar spot. Get your management plan in place. Have your fungicide of choice available. Communicate with your custom applicator. Be ready to spray between the VT and R3 growth stages if you plan to use just one fungicide application and you are seeing tar spot increase. If you spray between the V8 and VT growth stages, be ready to monitor the smartphone apps and do more scouting as you might have to pull the trigger again later in the season. Get out and SCOUT, SCOUT, SCOUT!

Other Resources

Wisconsin Field Crops Disease Update, August 9, 2023

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Figure 1. A Screen shot of a map developed in the Field Prophet app showing risk for tar spot development in Wisconsin as of August 9, 2023.

Well, it was going to happen sometime soon, tar spot has been confirmed in two counties in Wisconsin. You can track tar spot confirmations in realtime HERE. Both Lafayette and Rock counties were confirmed to have low levels of tar spot in several fields this week. The good news is that these finds are a month behind the initial confirmations in the state for the last two seasons. What does this mean? Well, it means that the tar spot impact on grain yield will likely not be has significant as it has been over the last couple of seasons. Exceptions to this statement will include late-planted corn where the current growth stages are around VT (tasseling) and susceptible silage hybrids. You should scout and track these situations carefully. Be prepared to chop silage early if tar spot really starts to move. You will want to watch moisture carefully in these situations.

The current risk for tar spot development remains moderate to high across much of the state (Fig. 1). Cooler weather and dewy evenings and mornings are keeping the risk elevated. Fungicide applications for much of the corn in the state should have happened already. Remember the optimal time to apply fungicides to control tar spot (and most other foliar corn diseases) is between the VT (tasseling) and R3 (milk) growth stages. Spraying fungicide after R3 has not yielded much of a return on investment. If you find tar spot, please don’t hesitate to send a high-quality photo to damon.smith@wisc.edu. We don’t disclose exact locations, but do like to track the county-level tar spot information. If you would like to learn more about tar spot and managing it, see my previous post HERE.

Figure 2. Sporecaster predictions for selected non-irrigated locations in Wisconsin for August 9, 2023.

In other news, white mold risk ranges from low in the southern portion of the state to moderate and high in the mid and upper portions of the state, respectively (Fig. 2). Most soybeans are probably headed toward the R4 or R5 growth stage. This means fungicide applications will no longer yield positive returns on investment. If soybeans were planted late and they are still in the R1 to R3 growth stages and you are in a moderate to high risk area, a fungicide should be applied at this time. If you would like to learn more about white mold management, see my previous post HERE. We have observed active white mold on susceptible varieties under irrigation already this season. I am anticipating pockets of white mold in the state, especially in our typical areas of concern in the central and northeastern quadrants.

As always, make sure you are out and scouting to be prepared for what is coming ahead!

Wisconsin Field Crops Disease Update, July 27, 2023

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Shawn Conley, Extension Soybean and Small Grains Agronomist, Department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rains continue to fall around Wisconsin. While we still have a moderate drought in much of the state, some of that drought is being alleviated. However, with these timely rains, come disease concerns. Here are our thoughts on what is happening.

Phytophthora Root and Stem Rot of Soybean

Figure 1. Stem rot symptoms of Phythophthora rot and stem rot on soybeans.

It has been a couple of years since we have seen a significant epidemic of Phytophthora root and stem rot (PRSR) of soybean. However, since it has started raining, we have got a good look at how susceptible many of our soybean varieties are here in Wisconsin. PRSR is primarily cause by the fungal-like organism, Phytophthora sojae. PRSR is usually worse in fields that are no-till and/or are slow to drain. The PRSR pathogen likes to survive in old soybean residue and can also persist as a long-term survival structure in the soil itself. The organisms that causes PRSR becomes active if the soil temperatures are over 60 F and the soil becomes saturated. We had those conditions occur back in early to mid-July. Once the soil dried out a bit and a bit of environmental stress kicked in, we can readily observe the damage the organism caused in early July. Primarily what we are seeing right now is the stem rot phase (Fig. 1), with the symptoms including wilting of the plant and a distinct purple-brown lesion extending from the soil surface upward. If plants are pulled from the ground, you will also see poor root systems which is where the organisms typically first infects and causes damage.

At this point in the season, there is nothing that can be done.  DO NOT spray foliar fungicides for this problem. This will not be effective. You will want to check on the variety with the symptoms and consult the tech sheet to see what type of “Phytophthora gene” may have been included in the variety. These genes are called Rps genes and provide race-level resistance. The population of the PRSR pathogen can be a single race or mixed races in the field. The last time a survey of Phytophthora races was done in Wisconsin, it was noted that the Rps 1-k resistance gene should be effective on about 99% of the acres in the state. However, that survey was done over 15 years ago. Due to heavy use of the Rps 1-k resistance gene, we believe that the population in the state has shifted. We are seeing that resistance readily overcome. Unfortunately, most of the varieties currently grown in the state have this resistance. A recent check of the soybean variety trials 2022 show that out of 265 varieties tested 25% had no PRSR resistance gene, 2% had Rps 1-a, 29% Rps 1-c, 26% Rps 1-k, 9% Rps 3-a, and 9% had multi-genes. We are actively working with the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board to understand what the current population looks like. However, it is too early to tell what the races are primarily in our fields. Moving forward. perhaps choosing Rps 3-a or mixed gene varieties could help, but that is a shot in the dark for now.

Other things you can do for PRSR are to open up the rotation between soybean crops, and improve drainage in fields that are typically saturated for long periods of time. Like I said above, adjusting variety choice can help too. Seed treatment fungicides can also be used. However remember that the seed treatment is only going to be effective for the first 30 days or so after planting. After that we have to rely on varietal resistance to manage this problem. If you would like to find efficacy data on the seed treatments you can find that HERE.

We are looking for samples of PRSR from around Wisconsin. So feel free to reach out (damon.smith@wisc.edu) and we can coordinate getting samples sent to us. This will help with our survey efforts and eventual varietal recommendations.

Tar Spot Update

Figure 2. A Screen shot of a map developed in the Field Prophet app showing risk for tar spot development in Wisconsin as of July 27, 2023.

You can find the most recent updates on tar spot confirmations across the U.S. here: https://corn.ipmpipe.org/tarspot/.  Tarspotter is also showing mostly moderate to high risk across the state of Wisconsin (Fig. 2). This means you should be actively scouting for tar spot at this time. The risk is likely that you will find it across much of the state. If the corn growth stage is between VT/R1 and R3, then you might go ahead and consider a fungicide application. Our research has shown that one well-timed application of fungicide somewhere between VT/R1 – R3 will control tar spot enough for a yield response even in a heavy-pressure year. You can learn more about managing tar spot by clicking here. If you think you found tar spot I would appreciate if you would let us know. We can enter the county level data into the Corn IPMPipe Map and contribute to the cause.

White Mold Update

Figure 3. Sporecaster predictions for selected non-irrigated locations in Wisconsin for July 27, 2023.

The risk for white mold according to Sporecaster is a bit more spotty, compared to tar spot. Mostly the northern tier of the state is at high risk while central and southern Wisconsin varies from moderate to low (Fig. 3). If you are in a low-risk area and you are at R3 or beyond, you might not have much to worry about for this year when it comes to white mold. However, if you are in a moderate-risk zone, watch this situation carefully. If you are at R3 and the crop has good canopy, you might consider one late R3 application. If you are in a high-risk zone, the crop has canopied, and your soybean crop is in the bloom period, it is time to think about a fungicide application. The recent rains have made the risk in these areas generally stay high or increase. These will be the areas I would expect to find white mold 1-3 weeks from now. If you would like to learn more about white mold management, check out my previous article HERE.

As always, get out and look the crop. Scout, scout, scout!

What Should I do About Tar Spot of Corn in 2023?

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Researcher II, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Schmidt, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

It didn’t take long this year to find tar spot in the Midwest. Over the last several weeks we have seen confirmed positives for tar spot in parts of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska (Fig. 1). This is earlier than last year despite. With that said, the severity is extremely low and does not necessitate spraying fungicide at the moment! So what should you do?

Figure 1. Map of U.S. counties where tar spot has been confirmed in the 2023 season, as of July 5, 2023. Map source: https://corn.ipmpipe.org/tarspot/.

What should I do?

My advice is to get prepared and make sure you have the tools in place to deal with this problem. As I said the last few seasons, tar spot is here to stay and we need to simply be prepared and ready to fight the disease. The first line of defense is to know if you have had tar spot before. This will tell you if there is resident inoculum sources present that can initiate epidemics. If you have seen tar spot on your farm before, then assume the pathogen is present and in close proximity to corn (the host). Remember the disease triangle? The last component of the triangle is the weather. If there has been conducive weather then the triangle has been met and risk is high for finding tar spots. So how do you know if the weather is conducive? Well, there is an app for that!

Tarspotter and Field Prophet are both Smartphone applications that can help you determine if the weather has been conducive to put your corn crop at high risk of tar spot development. Figure 2 shows a map of Wisconsin from the Field Prophet version of the tool that is showing that weather has been highly conducive for the development of tar spots. The app DOES NOT tell you if the pathogen is present. We are working on this part of the triangle to improve our predictions, but you need to determine if the pathogen is present in your field. This tool just tells you if the weather has been conducive.

Figure 2. A Screen shot of a map developed in the Field Prophet app showing risk for tar spot development in Wisconsin as of July 5, 2023.

So what weather is conducive for tar spot development? You are probably asking yourself this as we are in an epic drought, yet the forecasted risk of tar spot is high across the state. Well conducive weather for the pathogen it is different that the weather needed to grow corn. Yes, precipitation is helpful, but more importantly, we need intermittent wet/dry cycles to give us intermittent leaf wetness. Specifically leaf wetness at night. What gives leaf wetness this time of year other than rain? That would be high dew points and humidity. These variables are included in the models that run in Tarspotter and Field Prophet. We also include temperature which is an influential variable too. These variables are measured over the last 14 days and 30 days and included in each daily run of the tool. We use the GPS on the smartphone to pull down cloud-based weather for a precise location. Thus, these results are site-specific. I also like to the use the Field Prophet version of the models as this version provides a 7-day trend line on how weather has been progressing and also allows for a true 7-day forecast. These additional tools can better help with the decision-making process. If you would like to learn more about the “nuts and bolts” that run behind the smartphone apps, you can find our research publication HERE.

My corn is at V10, should I spray Fungicide?

My short answer is no! The disease is just getting started. If you find it in Wisconsin right now, it will be at low severity and is low in the canopy on leaves that are not going to contribute to yield. My advice is to use your prior knowledge of where tar spot occurred and the Tarspotter tool to help guide your scouting efforts. Get out into the fields and know what you are dealing with. Figure 3 shows various severity levels on a corn leaf. We don’t start to see yield loss until we reach about 10% severity on the ear leaves or above. Thus, you have time! Target fields planted to known susceptible hybrids. Get yourself prepared and use those lower leaves to monitor severity and tar spot progress. Be ready to protect (put fungicide on) those leaves that contribute to yield (ear leaf and above), later on especially if the weather becomes increasingly conducive (think wet/dry cycles!) and/or your scouting indicates severity is increasing.

When should I spray fungicide? What should I use?

Figure 3. Tar spot severity diagram indicating various levels of tar spot on corn leaves. Yield loss isn’t typically detectable in the field until severity reaches 10% or more on the ear leaf or leaves above this leaf.

Our recent work has shown that if you get the product right, you can generally control tar spot to the point to preserve your yield potential, with one well timed spray. So what is that timing of the single application? That would be between the VT (tasseling) and R3 (milk) growth stages. We determined this using a series of trials where we did single applications of fungicide for individual growth stages. Figure 4 shows the results of two trials from 2020 where the window of opportunity to reduce the severity of tar spot with a single application is between VT and R3. Yes, the two-spray program (V8+VT) did also control tar spot, but all the work was done by the VT application, not the V8-timed spray! Thus, if you chose to spray your 2023 crop at this point in the season, you stand a good chance of having to come back with a second application later in the season.

Also notice in figure 4 that Tarspotter was tested in 2020 and did not perform very well. This was an early iteration of the tool and we have since improved its performance. So please don’t judge the tool based on this figure. If you would like to see how Tarspotter performed in advising fungicide applications last season, check out this article based on the 2021 field season.

Now the questions is what fungicide should you choose? The short answer is that you have lots of options. You can learn more about fungicides and fungicide performance by CLICKING HERE. You can also check out the efficacy of various fungicides based on a collective of University research by viewing the “Fungicide Efficacy for Control of Corn Diseases” on the Crop Protection Network website. In addition, Dr. Darcy Telenko at Purdue University led an effort to publish data from a multi-state coordinated fungicide trial where we tested various fungicides during the 2021 epidemic.

Figure 4. Tar spot intensity after spraying fungicide once at each corn growth stage during the 2020 field season.

 

Figures 5 shows the tar spot severity, while figure 6 the corn yield, from those trials where a single application of each of the products was made at the VT growth stage. Clearly you have lots of options when it comes to products that can control tar spot. That is good news! Yes, some products do a bit better in preserving yield over others, but all fungicides tested in 2021 resulted in numerically higher yields than not-treating. Remember that 2021 was a banner year for tar spot. These results might not be as clear in a year where tar spot is not as intense.

Figure 5. Tar spot severity from multi-state trials where corn was treated with foliar fungicides at the VT corn growth stage, or not treated. Source: Telenko et al., 2022 – https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/10.1094/PHP-02-22-0012-BR.

Figure 6. Corn yield from multi-state trials where corn was treated with foliar fungicides at the VT corn growth stage, or not treated. Source: Telenko et al., 2022 – https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/10.1094/PHP-02-22-0012-BR.

The Conclusion

DON’T PANIC! This is just a call to be ready. Download the apps and know what the weather is doing. Use your prior knowledge and scouting in key locations to track tar spot. Get your management plan in place. Have your fungicide of choice available. Communicate with your custom applicator. Be ready to spray between the VT and R3 growth stages if you plan to use just one fungicide application and you are seeing tar spot increase. If you spray between the V8 and VT growth stages, be ready to monitor the smartphone apps and do more scouting as you might have to pull the trigger again later in the season. Get out and SCOUT, SCOUT, SCOUT!

Other Resources

Wisconsin Corn and Soybean Disease Update and Forecast – July 21, 2022

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Schmidt, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rain, and the return of more humid weather, has meant that risk of tar spot of corn and white mold of soybean has increased over the past week. Now is the time to think about your in-season management plan for both of these diseases. Let’s dig in a bit on what the risk looks like for each disease.

Tar Spot of Corn

This week we added Fond du Lac County to the tar spot map (Fig. 1). We also continue to see tar spot slowly increasing in plots and production fields on the Arlington research station. Looking back at our records from last season, we are tracking almost identically with what happened last year. I know folks think it is dry, but the tar spot fungus doesn’t care. It might move slow in these conditions, but the elevated humidity provides adequate leaf wetness for the disease to slowly progress. Should it start raining more regularly I expect the disease to pick up speed.

Corn is rapidly approaching (if not already at) the optimal window of opportunity (VT-R3) for spraying fungicide to control tar spot. Given the high risk for tar spot across much of the state (Fig. 2), now is the time to call in that fungicide application if you are planning on it. Given the possible constraints on locating a custom applicator, getting the order in earlier than later may ensure application of fungicide by the R3 corn growth stage. Get out and scout, scout, scout!

Figure 2. Tar Spot Risk for Wisconsin on July 21, 2022

White Mold of Soybean

White mold risk has increased from reasonably low last week, to mostly moderate across the state, this week (Fig. 3). Risk trends are also increasing, indicating that weather is continuing to become more favorable for white mold development. As we approach the R3 soybean growth stage, it will be important to make a decision on fungicide application, especially if you haven’t already applied a fungicide. If rain moves in over the next 7-10 days, expect risk to continue to increase. In irrigated fields we have been able to find apothecia (the mushroom-like structure that produces spores that infect soybean). This corroborates the increased risk we are seeing even in non-irrigated fields.

Figure 3. White mold risk in Wisconsin for July 21, 2022.

The Field Prophet Tool

For those who like all of their disease prediction tools in one place you might check out the Field Prophet version of the Tarspotter and Sporecaster apps. This tool consolidates all of our disease prediction tools into one convenient tool. The app also allows for true 7-day forecasting and will display 7-day trends to better inform your disease management decisions. Field Prophet, Inc is a startup company supported by UW-Madison and uses science-based information and the same models as Tarspotter and Sporecaster to deliver informative tools for agriculture clientele. You can also download and use Field Prophet for free for the next 6 months! You might find this tool as a handy alternative to Tarspotter and Sporecaster.

 

 

Wisconsin Corn and Soybean Disease Update and Forecast – July 14, 2022

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Schmidt, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Weather over the last week has been generally drier with milder temperatures in most of Wisconsin. Isolated storms have occurred and periods of leaf wetness have prevailed. So what does that mean for important plant diseases of corn and soybeans? Let’s break that down.

Tar Spot of Corn

As noted last week we found tar spot in Columbia county Wisconsin, which was the first report for 2022. This week we add Dane County to the list (Fig. 1). Tarspotter risk has remained high for much of the state over the last week due to milder temperatures and periods of leaf wetting events. It is important to note that conditions favorable for tar spot development are different than those for white mold in soybean. For white mold rain, more sustained wetting events, and cooler temperatures are required (see below). As of today (July 14, 2022) tar spot risk remains high or elevated for most of the state (Fig. 2). Over the next week the forecast is putting us a bit drier and hotter. Thus, the tar spot risk could continue to decline. However, remember that tar spot will continue to show up due to favorable weather 2 or more weeks back. The tar spot pathogen has a long incubation period (time from infection to tar spot appearance). Thus, you shouldn’t be surprised in finding tar spot at low levels over the next week. So should you spray fungicide now? If you can, wait until at least the VT (tasseling growth stage). The evidence is strong that the optimum window to spray fungicide to control tar spot is between the VT and R3 (milk) growth stages. Spraying before VT might leave corn plants vulnerable to a late-season tar spot increase. Thus, if you spray before VT, you might need to come back with a second application of fungicide closer to the R3 growth stage. For guidance on when/if to spray fungicide to manage tar spot, see my previous article.

Figure 2. Tar spot risk for Wisconsin on July 14, 2022.

White Mold of Soybean

White mold risk remains generally low and is dropping for most of the state of Wisconsin (Fig. 3). This is not surprising as temperatures have remained moderate with drier conditions. Based on the current risk and the 7-day forecast, fungicide applications can be held back. Folks should pay attention to the weather and Sporecaster risk as the crop moves into full bloom and early pod development. In recent years we have seen white mold risk increase during the late bloom time necessitating a fungicide application around the R3 growth stage. I would expect this same scenario to set up in 2022 in at least a portion of Wisconsin. Folks should monitor this situation carefully as we move ahead over the next 2 weeks. For more information on white mold and making the fungicide spray decision, see this previous article.

Figure 3. White mold risk for Wisconsin for July 14, 2022.

The Field Prophet Tool

For those who like all of their disease prediction tools in one place you might check out the Field Prophet version of the Tarspotter and Sporecaster apps. This tool consolidates all of our disease prediction tools into one convenient tool. The app also allows for true 7-day forecasting and will display 7-day trends to better inform your disease management decisions. Field Prophet, Inc is a startup company supported by UW-Madison and uses science-based information and the same models as Tarspotter and Sporecaster to deliver informative tools for agriculture clientele. You can also download and use Field Prophet for free for the next 6 months! You might find this tool as a handy alternative to Tarspotter and Sporecaster.

We Found Tar Spot of Corn in 2022, Now What?

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Researcher II, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Schmidt, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

It didn’t take long this year to find tar spot in the corn crop in the Midwest. Last week brought on the first county-wide reports of tar spot in Iowa and now we have found tar spot on corn in Columbia Co. Wisconsin as of July 6, 2022 (Fig 1). This is the earliest in the season, and the earliest growth stage of corn, that I have ever seen tar spot in Wisconsin. With that said, the severity is extremely low and does not necessitate spraying fungicide at the moment! So what should you do now?

Figure 1. Map of U.S. counties where tar spot has been confirmed in the 2022 season, as of July 7, 2022. Map source: https://corn.ipmpipe.org/tarspot/.

What should I do?

My advice is to get prepared and make sure you have the tools in place to deal with this problem. As I said last season, tar spot is here to stay and we need to simply be prepared and ready to fight the disease. The first line of defense is to know if you have had tar spot before. This will tell you if there is resident inoculum sources present that can initiate epidemics. If you have seen tar spot on your farm before, then assume the pathogen is present and in close proximity to corn (the host). Remember the disease triangle? The last component of the triangle is the weather. If there has been conducive weather then the triangle has been met and risk is high for finding tar spots. So how do you know if the weather is conducive? Well, there is an app for that!

Tarspotter and Field Prophet are both Smartphone applications that can help you determine if the weather has been conducive to put your corn crop at high risk of tar spot development. Figure 2 shows a map of Wisconsin from the Field Prophet version of the tool that is showing that weather has been highly conducive for the development of tar spots. The app DOES NOT tell you if the pathogen is present. We are working on this part of the triangle to improve our predictions, but you need to determine if the pathogen is present in your field. This tool just tells you if the weather has been conducive.

Figure 2. A Screen shot of a map developed in the Field Prophet app showing risk for tar spot development in Wisconsin as of July 7, 2022.

So what weather is conducive for tar spot development? Well, it is different that the weather needed to grow corn. Yes, precipitation is helpful, but more importantly, we need leaf wetness. Specifically leaf wetness at night. What gives leaf wetness this time of year other than rain? That would be high dew points and humidity. These variables are included in the models that run in Tarspotter and Field Prophet. We also include temperature (not as important as you think it would be) and precipitation. These variables are measured over the last 14 days and included in each daily run of the tool. We use the GPS on the smartphone to pull down cloud-based weather for a precise location. Thus, these results are site-specific. I also like to the use the Field Prophet version of the models as this version provides a 7-day trend line on how weather has been progressing and also allows for a true 7-day forecast. These additional tools can better help with the decision-making process.

My corn is at V8 or V10, should I spray Fungicide?

My short answer is no! The disease is just getting started. It is at low severity (Fig. 3) and is low in the canopy on leaves that are not going to contribute to yield. My advice is to use your prior knowledge of where tar spot occurred and the Tarspotter tool to help guide your scouting efforts. Get out into the fields and know what you are dealing with. Target field planted to known susceptible hybrids. Get yourself prepared and use those lower leaves to monitor severity and tar spot progress. Be ready to protect (put fungicide on) those leaves that contribute to yield (ear leaf and above), later on.

When should I spray fungicide? What should I use?

Figure 3. A single tar spot on a lower leaf of corn in Wisconsin on July 6, 2022.

Our recent work has shown that if you get the product right, you can generally control tar spot to the point to preserve your yield potential, with one well timed spray. So what is that timing of the single application? That would be between the VT (tasseling) and R3 (milk) growth stages. We determined this using a series of trials where we did single applications of fungicide for individual growth stages. Figure 4 shows the results of two trials from 2020 where the window of opportunity to reduce the severity of tar spot with a single application is between VT and R3. Yes, the two-spray program (V8+VT) did also control tar spot, but all the work was done by the VT application, not the V8-timed spray! Thus, if you chose to spray your 2022 crop at this point in the season, you stand a good chance of having to come back with a second application later in the season.

Also notice in figure 4 that Tarspotter was tested in 2020 and did not perform very well. This was an early iteration of the tool and we have since improved its performance. So please don’t judge the tool based on this figure. If you would like to see how Tarspotter performed in advising fungicide applications last season, check out this article based on the 2021 field season.

Now the questions is what fungicide should you choose? The short answer is that you have lots of options. You can learn more about fungicides and fungicide performance by CLICKING HERE. You can also check out the efficacy of various fungicides based on a collective of University research by viewing the “Fungicide Efficacy for Control of Corn Diseases” on the Crop Protection Network website. In addition, Dr. Darcy Telenko at Purdue University led an effort to publish data from a multi-state coordinated fungicide trial where we tested various fungicides during the 2021 epidemic.

Figure 4. Tar spot intensity after spraying fungicide once at each corn growth stage during the 2020 field season.

 

Figures 5 shows the tar spot severity, while figure 6 the corn yield, from those trials where a single application of each of the products was made at the VT growth stage. Clearly you have lots of options when it comes to products that can control tar spot. That is good news! Yes, some products do a bit better in preserving yield over others, but all fungicides tested in 2021 resulted in numerically higher yields than not-treating. Remember that 2021 was a banner year for tar spot. These results might not be as clear in a year where tar spot is not as intense.

Figure 5. Tar spot severity from multi-state trials where corn was treated with foliar fungicides at the VT corn growth stage, or not treated. Source: Telenko et al., 2022 – https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/10.1094/PHP-02-22-0012-BR.

Figure 6. Corn yield from multi-state trials where corn was treated with foliar fungicides at the VT corn growth stage, or not treated. Source: Telenko et al., 2022 – https://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/10.1094/PHP-02-22-0012-BR.

The Conclusion

DON’T PANIC! This is just a call to be ready. Download the apps and know what the weather is doing. Use your prior knowledge and scouting in key locations to track tar spot. Get your management plan in place. Have your fungicide of choice available. Communicate with your custom applicator. Be ready to spray between the VT and R3 growth stages if you plan to use just one fungicide application and you are seeing tar spot increase. If you spray between the V8 and VT growth stages, be ready to monitor the smartphone apps and do more scouting as you might have to pull the trigger again later in the season. Get out and SCOUT, SCOUT, SCOUT!

Other Resources

Tar Spot Is Here To Stay…

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Schmidt, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

…let’s start working on how to manage it in Wisconsin (Some thoughts on how to do this in the “Other Resources” below). While we haven’t had major epidemics every year since 2016, tar spot has been found each year and caused problems in some corn fields since its discovery. Figure 1 show counties in the U.S. that tar spot has been found, to date. I’m sure there are others in Wisconsin, feel free to send me pictures or samples for confirmation.

 

Yes, 2018, and now 2021, have clearly seen significant tar spot epidemics that affect yield. What challenges will we be dealing with as we move into harvest in 2021? Here are my thoughts.

Silage Corn Harvest

I took a crack at this one in the video below.

Many are already chopping or have finished at this point. However, it is important to realize that tar spot can dry corn plants abnormally fast. Thus, packing the bunker and initiating fermentation can be a challenge. This can lead to secondary issues such as fungal growth in the bunker and/or increases in mycotoxins. Monitor things carefully and do the best job you can this year putting the crop in the bunker. This year isn’t the year to cut corners!

Grain Corn Harvest

Now is the time to get out there and see how much tar spot is in your grain corn crop and start making plans for order of harvest. If the crop is shutting down abnormally fast, then stalk integrity is going to start to become an issue. Prioritizing fields with high tar spot pressure for harvest first, will help to limit lodging issues and ease harvest headaches. Also, be sure to check for other issues as you scout, like ear rots, that can lead to mycotoxin issues. Get mycotoxin tests if you think you might have problems, before you put it in the bin. You don’t want to mix grain that is low in mycotoxins with grain that has high levels of mycotoxins. Incidentally, no mycotoxins have been implicated directly with tar spot.

More on the grain harvest situation can viewed in the video below.

Tar Spot Management Nuggets as Harvest Begins

The two big questions I have been getting lately about tar spot management are: 1) How is tar spot hybrid resistance looking? 2) How does fungicide work on tar spot?

First, hybrids…There aren’t any hybrids that we know of that are completely resistant. Yes, some are more partially resistant that others. Now is also a good time to look at hybrids. Those that show less disease and are still green are going to be better candidates to grow next year versus those that are showing lots of tar spot and have already dried down. Look at local hybrid trials, especially. Write down the numbers of hybrids that look good. Leave the others that look bad.

Now the fungicide question. Yes, there are some fungicides that work. Yes, even on susceptible hybrids they can help. However, like white mold in soybeans, fungicide efficacy is largely dependent on fungicide application timing. Miss the onset of the epidemics, or periods where the epidemic is rapidly increasing, and even a great fungicide will look terrible.

To help with the timing decision we have developed the Tarspotter smartphone app. We have been testing this app over the last couple of seasons. It is useful in that it can help you anticipate epidemics of tar spot to get fungicide applications on preventatively, when they will work the best. Figure 2 below shows the performance of a fungicide application applied using Tarspotter versus a single application at the VT growth stage versus the non-treated check. While the standard VT application did well, two-applications (one at the start of the epidemic at V10 and another at R2) were needed to hold tar spot off in 2021. As you can clearly see, Tarspotter can be used to make these complicated spray decisions and optimize fungicide performance.

Figure 2. Non-treated check on the left, fungicide applied at VT only in the center, and fungicide applied at V10 and R2 according to Tarspotter on the right.

As for fungicide products, we continue to see mixed-mode-of-action products work more consistently that single-mode-of-action products. This fall we should have some updated fungicide performance information that might shed more light on this subject. Stay tuned!

Other Resources

Tar Spot Web-book

Will a Second Fungicide Be Worth the Cost for Tat Spot Management?

Fact Sheet: Tar Spot

How Tar Spot of Corn Impacted Hybrid Yields During the 2018 Midwest Epidemic

Wisconsin Soybean and Corn Disease Update – August 2, 2021

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Camila Primieri Nicolli, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

It has been a while since I posted a corn and soybean disease update for Wisconsin in 2021, and that is because it has been reasonably quiet in the disease world up to this point. However, recent scouting and incoming reports indicate that this could change a bit as we move into August. Let’s take a look at what has happened so far this season and what to keep an eye out for over the next month or so.

The Soybean Situation

Figure 1. Phytophthora Root and stem rot of soybean

The Phytophthora Issue in Soybeans. During July we saw, and received reports, of some fields with Phytophthora root and stem rot of soybean (Fig. 1). I have received a lot of questions on why this happened. Are we seeing changes in the races of the Phytophthora organism in Wisconsin? My short answer is probably not. However, we have found a new species of Phytophthora in some fields that can affect soybean. The new species, Phytophthora sansomeana, can be found in mixed infections with P. sojae. Thus, even if we deployed the proper Rps resistances genes in our varieties, this “new” organisms might be causing some of the damage we observed this year.

We also are seeing fewer available soybean varieties with Rps 1K form of resistance. This form of resistance should be effective on about 99% of the fields in Wisconsin. Instead, we see varieties deployed that have the Rps 1c, Rps 1a, or no Rps gene indicated. Rps 1C is effective on about 75% of the acres in Wisconsin, just to give you some perspective. Thus, I don’t think this is necessarily an issue where we have seen race shifts in P. sojae, but a combination of issues where perhaps we aren’t deploying the correct resistance genes and we might have a new species of Phytophthora adding to the mix. You can learn more about managing Phytophthora root and stem rot of soybean in Wisconsin by clicking here. You will note that seed treatments can also be used to manage Phytophthora root and stem rot. You can click here to learn more about fungicide seed treatments and fungicide resistance in this group of organisms.

What’s Up with White Mold? For most of the state of Wisconsin, we are through the critical bloom time for infection by the white mold fungus. It is now really too late to make a fungicide application that is economically viable. However, scouting fields through August can help you determine what worked, what didn’t, and to figure out your harvest order. Remember, a great way to move the white mold fungus around is by contaminated combines at harvest. Start harvesting fields with no or low white mold incidence and work your way to those fields that look worse. Also consider cleaning combines between fields to limit movement of the fungal survival structures (a.k.a apothecia – the things that look like rat turds!) from one field to the next.

Look out for SDS. Now is also a good time to be scouting for sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soybeans. I’m not sure we will have a bunch of SDS this year in Wisconsin, but we will see pockets for sure. Knowing where you see it and what you did in 2021 can help with making variety and seed treatment decisions for 2022 and beyond. Remember that we do have decent partial resistance to SDS in many commercial varieties. Start here and choose the most resistant variety that fits your environment. Then consider layering a seed treatment (either Saltro or ILeVO) for improved management of SDS. You can learn more about seed treatment performance by studying the Fungicide Efficacy for Control of Soybean Seedling Diseases chart. You can also learn more about the performance of ILeVO in multi-state research trials by reading this report.

The Corn Situation

Corn in Wisconsin has been reasonably free of disease up to this point this season. However, we have noted a few foliar diseases beginning to pop up. We have observed gray leaf spot (GLS) becoming easy to find in most fields, while northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) is starting to show up in a handful of fields we have visited. We are also paying close attention to the tar spot and southern rust situations, I’ll expand on these below.

How bad is tar spot? The Tarspotter app has been running at moderate to high risk of tar spot increase over the last couple of weeks in Wisconsin. Our scouting has confirmed that tar spot is present in at least 5 counties so far in Wisconsin (Fig. 2). All but Grant County show tar spot to be easy to find, but it is present in the lower canopy at low severity. In Grant County, we had to hunt a long time to find 2 spots in a research field on a known susceptible. These observations align with Tarspotter as it indicated just moderate risk in the southwest quadrant of Wisconsin, with high risk from south central to the north. If you plan on spraying a fungicide to manage tar spot, we recommend that this be done soon, prior to the R3/R4 growth stage. The goal here is to protect the leaves from the ear leaf up from continued increase by the fungus. If you would like to learn more about tar spot check out the new web book published by the Crop Protection Network.

Figure 2. County-level confirmations of tar spot in the U.S. as of August 2, 2021.

Continue to scout for tar spot and let us know what you are finding. We are now accepting good pictures of tar spot to confirm its presence in counties where we have observed it in years past, in Wisconsin. In counites that tar spot has never been confirmed, we would like to get a physical sample to verify (Fig 2). Feel free to reach out to me if you do find tar spot or any other disease of corn or soybean for that matter.

Figure 3. County-level confirmations of southern rust on corn in the U.S. as of August 2, 2021.

Has southern rust hit Wisconsin yet? The short answer is NO, not that we can find. We have scouted and asked several folks in our network, and nobody has observed and lab-confirmed southern rust in Wisconsin. However, figure 3 show county-level confirmations of southern rust of corn in the U.S. Based on this map, I would not be surprised if southern rust is confirmed in the next week or so in Wisconsin. Like tar spot, fungicides can be applied up to the R3/R4 growth stage with some benefits. Spraying after R4 will not yield economic returns. To learn more about managing southern rust of corn, check out the electronic fact sheet from the Crop Protection Network.

Keep an eye on the soybean and corn disease situation and scout, scout, scout. Let us know what you are finding!

Wisconsin Soybean and Corn Disease Update – July 7, 2021

Damon Smith, Extension Field Crops Pathologist, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Brian Mueller, Assistant Field Researcher, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Schmidt, Nutrient and Pest Management Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Soybean White Mold Update

Figure 1. White mold risk for Wisconsin on July 7, 2021 from the Sporecaster smartphone app.

Figure 1 illustrates the calculated risk of white mold for select Wisconsin locations for non-irrigated soybeans, as determined by Sporecaster for July 7, 2021. This means that if soybeans are flowering and the area between rows is filled in more than 50%, risk is just moderate in most locations of the state, with the exception of the far northeast portions of the state. This moderate risk indicates that there may not be apothecia present in fields in these locations at this time, however, the situation needs to be monitored closely as we move from R1 to the R2 growth stage. With a cooler, wetter weather pattern over the next 5-7 days, I believe that the risk for white mold will increase. I’m expecting a later onset (closer to the R3 growth stage) of white mold for much of the state in 2021. Warmer weather up to this point has pushed the risk of white mold potentially later in the bloom period.

Current White Mold Management Recommendation

I wrote extensively about white mold management in my previous post. Take some time to read the management recommendations there. I think folks should be patient yet monitor the situation carefully over the next several weeks. Again, if calculated risk continues to rise, then a fungicide application may be warranted as we progress through the bloom period. Be sure to download the Sporecaster app to get tailored recommendations for your fields. You can also adjust the action thresholds in the app (my map above is set at the default 40% threshold) and run specific models for irrigated environments.

Corn Tar Spot Update

Figure 2. Tar spot risk for Wisconsin on July 7, 2021 based on the Tarspotter smartphone app.

Figure 2 shows the calculated risk from Tarspotter (our smartphone prediction tool for tar spot) for July 7, 2021, for various locations in Wisconsin. The action threshold for high risk is 40% using the updated Tarspotter model for 2021. As you can see, the present risk is high for much of the state. Cooler, wet conditions over the next week will keep risk moderate to high. We have scouted several locations in Wisconsin and have been unable to find tar spot at this time in the state. However, figure 3 shows that tar spot has been found in some surrounding states, at low levels.

Current Tar Spot Management Recommendation

Monitoring Tarspotter (be sure to download it to your smartphone) and scouting should be done at this time to determine the diseases present. Tracking this situation, not only for tar spot but other corn diseases, will also help you make an in-season fungicide spray decision as we approach the very important VT/R1 growth stage. For more on making the decision to spray fungicide on corn, see my previous post. Get out and scout, scout, scout!

Figure 3. Confirmed tar spot cases in the U.S. as of July 7, 2021.