Don't Stop Now!

July 31, 2011
ICM News

By Alison Robertson, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology

Now is not the time to stop scouting. It may not be pleasant out there (think pollen and hot), but the weather the past couple of weeks has been favorable for gray leaf spot development. Gray leaf spot development is favored by mean daily temperatures between 72 F and 85 F, and high humidity (higher than 90%). I have had several reports this past week of fields in which the gray leaf spot has developed up to the ear leaf. Northern leaf blight development has also been progressing in several fields in central Iowa. 

I have been scouting my field plots the past couple of days and also have noticed that gray leaf spot and northern leaf blight have developed rapidly in the past two weeks. One thing I noted was disease severity was hybrid specific. I have several hybrids in my plots, but only one or two may be at threshold for a fungicide application (disease present on the third leaf below the ear leaf or higher). The affected hybrids always are rated more susceptible to disease.

Can a fungicide application be made after brown silk?

Yes. Most of the fungicides used on corn (Headline®, Headline AMP®, Stratego YLD® and Quilt Xcel®) have a pre-harvest interval of 7 days (Headline®) or 30 days (other products), which means in theory, a product could be applied up to R5 (dent). We have some data from 2007 through 2009 for foliar applications after R2 (blister; around brown silk), which is summarized in Table 1. Although the yield response with an R3/R4 application of fungicide was not as high as the other timings, there was low disease pressure in these trials. In general, yield responses to a fungicide application are greater when disease is present in the field.

Table 1.  Effect of application timing on the mean yield response of corn to a fungicide in Iowa

If disease occurs after brown silk, would a fungicide protect yield?

Good question. There are few data I am aware of. Consider that:

  • The reproductive growth period in corn (VT to R6) typically lasts approximately 64-65 days.
  • Dry matter accumulation starts at R2 and rapidly increases through approximately R5.75 (3/4 milk line).
  • And 55 percent of dry matter accumulating after R5 (Abendroth et al, 2011).


If the disease threshold is met at R3 or R4, could a fungicide application protect yield, bearing in mind dry matter accumulation is 20 to 30 percent complete?

Harkin and Arkridge (2009) evaluated one (R4), two (R4 and R3), three (R2, R3 and R4) and four (VT, R2, R3 and R4) applications of Headline® on two hybrids in double crop corn in Alabama. On one hybrid, northern leaf blight was predominant, while on the second hybrid southern rust was predominant. A single application of Headline at R4 significantly reduced rust severity and, although yield was higher (95.8 bu/acre), it was not significantly different at the 5 percent level from the unsprayed check (88.7 bu/acre). Two, three and four applications reduced rust severity and resulted in higher yields (104.9-119.1 bu/acre).  Similarly, with northern leaf blight, a single application of Headline at R4 reduced disease but multiple applications were more effective. Yields did not differ between treatments.

These data suggest that a fungicide application after R2 will slow disease development, although this may not always result in an increase in yield. However, reducing leaf disease could reduce stalk rot severity and therefore contribute to standability.

Abendroth, L.J., Elmore, R.W., Boyer, M. J. and Marlay, S.K.  2011.  Corn Growth and Development.  Iowa State University Extension, PMR 1009.

Hagan, A.K. and Arkridge, J.R.  2009. Headline programs compared for rust and northern corn leaf blight control on double crop corn, 2009.  Plant Disease Management Reports 5:FC009 


Alison Robertson is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology with extension and research responsibilities; contact at or phone 515-294-6708.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on July 31, 2011. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.


Alison Robertson Associate Professor of Plant Pathology and Microbiology

Dr. Alison Robertson is an associate professor of plant pathology and microbiology. She provides extension education on the diagnosis and management of corn and soybean diseases. Her research interests include Pythium seedling disease of corn and soybean and Goss's wilt. Dr. Robertson received h...