White mold — a crop disease caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum — is nothing new to Kevin Pribyl, a soybean grower in Denmark, Wisconsin. In fact, the disease is a severe problem in central to northeast Wisconsin near Lake Michigan. The moist, cool environment is perfect for white mold growth. Kevin’s farm is in the epicenter of the area affected, and he attributes the farm’s proximity to Lake Michigan for the severity of white mold that he’s seeing in his fields. “With the soybeans in this neighborhood, white mold is a serious concern right now,” Pribyl says.
Recently, growers have seen an uptick in white mold infection. It is one of the most devastating soybean diseases, cutting yields by 10–20%, and in extreme cases, up to 50–70%. The occurrence of the disease is affected by soil and weather conditions, which can be extreme catalysts for disease spread. As crops become more susceptible or changes in genetics occur, disease prevalence and severity increase, leading to a decline in plant health and yield. From season to season, white mold is easily spread across fields by tillage equipment. There’s a strong chance if you’ve dealt with white mold in previous years, it will come back to plague your crop rotation. Sporecaster, an app programmed by agronomists and pathologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is designed to help growers detect the early stages of a white mold infection and the need to get ahead of it. Soybean plants can also become more immune to certain treatment packages. To help protect yield potential and the bottom line, soybean growers are looking for more solutions.
Combating white mold in the field
Pribyl has grown 300 acres of soybeans on his farm since 1980. As a fourth-generation farmer, he’s had his hands in soil his entire life. Every year, his first priority when hitting the field is making sure he has the inputs he needs.
Heads Up® seed treatment is a biological treatment with modes of action that can help growers get a head start against a variety of fungal and bacterial diseases in row and specialty crops. Specifically, Heads Up is the only EPA/PMRA registered seed treatment for suppression of white mold and SDS — a soil-borne fungal pathogen (Fusarium virguliforme) — in soybeans.
One of the first steps to combating white mold is choosing the right seed variety. Selecting a seed variety that is already resistant to white mold and SDS is one way to get a head start on controlling these soybean diseases. Pribyl says that’s “almost a given thing around here.” He also recommends incorporating different fungicides, seed treatments, inoculants and, now, Heads Up to help tackle white mold.
Five years ago, Kevin remembers growers in his area who didn’t want to spend the money adding another treatment to their seed. Now, he says 80% of farmers in the area use Heads Up. Dairy farmers in the area who also have soybeans in their rotation may not see white mold as frequently in their fields, but anyone farming corn, soybeans and wheat in their rotation has problems with the fungus.
In 2019, Pribyl first used Heads Up in a test plot that he says was formed by chance. He accidentally planted the same soybean seed variety side by side, which turned out to be perfect for testing. “The results prove themselves — that particular test plot was a little over seven bushels per acre difference, according to the yield monitor on the combine,” Pribyl explains. He says it’s not always a drastic difference but with Heads Up, it’s easy to get your return on investment. At less than $4.00 per acre, Heads Up is a low-cost, affordable solution. Pribyl adds, “It’s real easy to get that yield difference.” In his fields, the occurrence of white mold can vary from year to year. There are years when white mold is not present or visible at all. However, white mold has recently been a serious concern. When it does show up, it’s too late.
Low-cost, affordable protection
Heads Up is often described as “inexpensive insurance” or affordable yield protection. A cost-effective seed treatment, Heads Up can be your first line of defense to help eliminate or reduce the prevalence of yield-robbing diseases like white mold and SDS. Usually, if you have a white mold issue, you may not recognize it until your soybean plants are flowering. And by that time, it’s too late to do anything. Pribyl treats his seed with Heads Up ahead of time as you can’t predict when white mold might become problematic.
Adding Heads Up to your crop protection plan is easy and affordable. “For what it costs per acre, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t use it,” Pribyl says. “We put it on when treating the seeds with fungicide — which is all done at the same time — so there’s no added cost there. It’s just a couple of dollars an acre; everybody should be doing it.”
When he visits his dealer, TH Agri-Chemicals, to get his seed treated, they apply the Heads Up formulation at the same time. “It can’t be any easier than that,” he says.
Proven results and ROI
Pribyl first heard about Heads Up from Jeff Luttropp, a representative at TH Agri-Chemicals. Luttropp also grows corn and soybeans on his family’s dairy farm. His number one priority is to provide his growers with the most cost-effective seed treatments, fungicides and programs. In his region, the largest concerns for growers are white mold and water hemp. At TH Agri-Chemicals, Luttropp says they recommend Heads Up to always stay ahead of germination for white mold problems. In the area, white mold is the biggest issue for growers, but they have also seen some incidences of SDS in certain fields. “I don’t see any white mold in the fall,” Luttropp says. “We definitely have it knocked out at the moment whether it’s genetic advancements or the combination of the seed treatments. We don’t use any foliar fungicides, but we don’t see any white mold on the farm. I have seen it prior to 2019, before we started using Heads Up.”
Pribyl was the first grower TH Agri-Chemicals worked with to trial the Heads Up seed treatment for soybeans. Heads Up is a cost-effective and easy-to-use solution for added protection against several diseases in a handful of crops. “Everywhere we use it, we get good compliments,” Luttropp says.
“We’re definitely reducing the evidence of the spores out there and the incidence of white mold and SDS. For the few bucks an acre that it costs you, just do it.”
Overall, Heads Up offers invaluable ROI. “It’s probably by far the lowest-cost material that we can put on for white mold,” Luttropp says. “This is definitely cost-effective.”
For season-long, broad spectrum disease control, talk to your local seed dealer about Heads Up or call 1-866-368-9306 for more information. To connect with Jeff Luttropp at TH Agri-Chemicals, call 715-570-7082 or visit THAgriChemicals.com.
About Heads Up®
Heads Up is a biological seed treatment that is EPA-registered for soybeans, wheat, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, dry beans, corn and chickpeas. Used alone or in combination with other fungicide or insecticide seed treatments, Heads Up brings additional, full-season protection to help position your plants to succeed against yield-robbing disease pathogens.
About TH Agri-Chemicals, Inc.
TH Agri-Chemicals is a privately-owned distributorship that has been serving growers since 1982. Based in Plainfield, Wisconsin, TH works with growers and seed treatments in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Illinois.