Corn School: Ground vs aerial fungicide application


Should you go ground or air?

That’s the question many growers struggle with as they try to determine the best method of applying disease-fighting fungicide to their growing corn crops.

On this episode of RealAgriculture Corn School we tackle that question with two of North America’s leading plant pathologists — University of Kentucky’s Kiersten Wise and OMAFRA’s Albert Tenuta. Wise notes that both application approaches have their pros and cons. Ground application delivers the flexibility that many growers require. Ground rigs give higher options when timing a fungicide spray, whereas with aerial application, growers may have to spray when the plane is available.

Product choice is also a consideration, says Wise. She notes that some aerial applicators offer limited fungicide choices compared to those available from ground applicators. But when it comes to covering acres, it’s tough to beat planes and helicopters, especially if there is a disease threat or a particular timing window you have to hit.

When it comes to optimizing application performance — getting fungicide down into the canopy and covering leaves and silks — Tenuta says both ground and aerial application can do the job. He discusses research results from the 2019 ‘Corn Sprayer Rodeo’ held at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown College campus. Tenuta and his research colleagues concluded that a range of fungicide application methods can be highly effective. They did note, however, that ground drop nozzles, and other technologies that mimic their in-canopy application scored top marks for performance. (Story continues after the video.)

In the video, Wise also discussed her research work with a Kentucky-based commercial drone fungicide applicator. She notes that applying a product with a drone does pose some logistical challenges  — it will take longer due to frequent refills — but plant coverage and efficacy has been very strong. “We got good disease control. In one of our trials, we got a nice yield benefit, and the farmers were really happy with the applications.”

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