Thoughts about late season peanut disease this year…

I have received a lot of questions regarding leaf spot fungicide treatments in the past two weeks. A lot of this is driven by either: 1) fungicide failures in fields with high disease pressure; or 2) fields under heavy drought stress. In both cases I have advised growers and consultants to look at low cost options. I’ll cover both situations below.

Fields with high late leaf spot pressure Late leaf spot outbreaks have shown up in fields that have been sprayed with Miravis that has traditionally performed well in past years. In each case the fields were in a 4 year or less rotation, most of these fields were irrigated, and growers were using the 4 week extended spray interval to take advantage of the residual activity provided by Miravis. What growers and consultants are interested in now is what to do to hold the leaves on until digging. I try to reduce fungicide costs this close to digging while providing late leaf spot management that reduces excessive defoliation. My “go to” has been Microthiol Disperss (dry sulfur formulation) mixed with a Group 3, DMI fungicide. University researchers, including myself, have observed favorable results with this combination in field trials. The hesitancy in using this program is the added complexity of using a dry formulation and sourcing Microthiol Disperss. Some grower opt for liquid formulations of sulfur because of the two reasons just mentioned, but most of the positive results reported have been with Microthiol Disperss and the amount of sulfur provided by liquid formulations is variable depending on each product, and often the amount of sulfur used with liquid formulations is less than what is provided with Microthiol Disperss. I prefer Microthiol Disperss because it has proven effective in managing high levels of late-season late leaf spot and because it is inexpensive (about $1 per pound which is $5/acre at the recommended 5 lb rate). The sulfur provides instant reduction in leaf spot inoculum but little to no residual activity. That’s why I recommend mixing it with a DMI fungicide like Provost Silver or less expensive Alto. DMI’s provide some curative activity, but most importantly residual activity. Group 7 (SDHIs) and Group 11 (strobilurins) don’t provide curative activity and are most active when applied preventively when little-to-no leaf spot is present.

Fungicide decisions on drought stressed peanuts In many areas peanuts are under severe drought stress with many fields exhibiting wilting 24 hours a day with growers being reluctant to apply leaf spot fungicides due to dry conditions. In many cases these fields are 10-14 days away from digging. This is really a situation where I tend to favor no fungicide applications or at least one application of a very inexpensive fungicide. During dry conditions we often avoid using chlorothalonil (Bravo) due to it’s propensity for flaring spider mites. In my opinion the fungus that parasitizes spider mites to keep them in check is already absent due to the severe drought which is why many growers are seeing outbreaks of spider mites in certain areas. Since the fungus that keeps spider mites at bay (and that chlorothalonil reduces) is already absent, if chlorothalonil is chosen I see that as a low-risk application. Another less expensive option would be Alto which shouldn’t flare spider mites. My personal favorite is to not apply a fungicide at all because: 1) there is little to no leaf spot in these wilted peanuts; and 2) leaf spot outbreaks take a good bit of time to get going and by the time you see any leaf spot in these fields it will be too late for the disease to cause yield damage by the time they are dug. In Suffolk, VA the extended forecast shows no rain chances over 20% for 9 days, at least with the weather app I use. So leaf spot pressure will be low until digging in most cases which further decreases the chance of outbreaks occurring. Deciding not to spray a fungicide is a low risk option in my opinion.

Aflatoxin potential It’s been many years since growers have had to think about dry conditions leading to aflatoxin-contaminated peanuts, which is a good thing. This year is different due to the drought stress near harvest. I recommend keeping peanut field harvests separate between fields with low and high risks of aflatoxin contamination. In other words, avoid mixing peanuts from severely drought-stressed and fields that have not had as much drought stress (possibly irrigated). If peanuts that have had drought stress are to be used for seed, they should receive a quality seed treatment to reduce poor stand due to the aflatoxin fungus in peanuts planted next spring.