Six facts to arm yourself against northern corn leaf blight

Spring planting may be late for the Midwest, but crop disease isn’t waiting around

Planting delays are occurring across the Midwest this year, and many growers are hoping to quickly get the season back on track. With the unusual weather having a potential impact on yield, it’s important for growers to plan for and prevent issues they know may cause possible yield loss. And one of the biggest is northern corn leaf blight (NCLB).


With temperatures and humidity on the rise, here are six things growers should know about NCLB:


1. What are the favorable conditions for NCLB?
According to the Purdue Extension, NCLB overwinters on corn residue and infects corn during periods of moderate temperatures (between 64 and 81 degrees), high humidity and extended dews.  


2. What do you mean by “overwinter”?
From the experts at the Purdue Extension: “Northern corn leaf blight survives through the winter on infected corn residue at the soil surface. As the temperature increases at the beginning of summer, the fungus produces spores on the residue, which are then splashed or blown onto the leaves of the new corn plant.”


3. Why should I care about this disease?
After observing corn fields for several years, it has been found that NCLB has a proven negative impact on yield by reducing green leaf area and photosynthesis, particularly around tasseling.


4. Does NCLB have a greater negative impact on yield than other corn diseases?
Between 2013 and 2016, NCLB had the greatest yield impact out of all common corn diseases. According to the Crop Connection Network, Midwest growers can attribute an average of 28 percent of their yield loss to NCLB, and in 2016 alone they lost 14.5 million bushels of corn to this disease.


5. What should growers do to reduce their risk of NCLB?
When long periods of hot, humid weather conditions occur, that’s the key time to make a proactive fungicide application. This is important as fungicides are much more effective when applied preventively before symptoms of NCLB appear.


6. Is there a specific fungicide that growers should consider?
Foliar fungicides, like BASF’s Headline AMP® fungicide, provide superior NCLB disease control in both low- and high-pressure NCLB environments. The application of foliar fungicides limits the negative yield impacts corn growers may face and provides growers consistent value. For example, based on BASF research, it has been found that Headline AMP offers a positive yield response 94 percent of the time in over 500 on-farm trials for the past six years.


Armed with these six facts about NCLB, growers will have a better understanding of the disease and be able to manage NCLB during this year’s uncommon weather. To learn more, growers are encouraged to visit, or speak with their local BASF representative.


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