July 15, 2024

Fungicide showdown: ground vs. aerial applications

Beck’s Hybrids shares research insight

Aaron Carmer (left) and Collin Scherer share farm research insights from Beck’s Hybrids on YouTube.

ATLANTA, Ind. — In the showdown between ground and aerial fungicide applications, planes and drones had a slight edge over ground equipment, according to research from Beck’s Hybrids.

Aaron Carmer, PFR location lead, and Collin Scherer, PFR operations manager, discussed Practical Farm Research studies during an episode of “The Dig.”

“Over the last few years, we’ve tested something new: how to apply fungicides by comparing ground and aerial applications,” Scherer said.

“Our two-year, multilocation data comparing fungicide applications on corn at that R1 growth stage shows a slight advantage of the airplane application.

“However, we need to point out that this data has been mixed over the last two years of testing as most of this research has come from central Illinois, which has been drier and experienced lower disease pressures in 2022 and 2023.”

Last year, they added a drone application to trials at two locations — and the results were surprising.

“It was pretty interesting to see that the drone did have a slight advantage over both the ground rig and the airplane application,” Carmer said.

“Now, it’s important to note that this is only one year’s worth of data that came from a growing season with lower disease pressure. But it was interesting to see the drone have that slight edge over the ground applications.”

Corn plots that used drone applications saw a 3.4-bushel advantage versus ground machines. Soybean plots saw an increase of 1.8 bushels when using a drone.

The studies were replicated at four PFR locations, with drones applying 2 gallons an acre and the ground rig spraying 20 gallons an acre carrier.

“I was definitely surprised to see the drone come out on top in this head-to-head comparison, mainly because we’ve always been told that carrier rate is key when it comes to making fungicide applications,” Carmer said.

“Some people think — me being one of them — there might be something to do with having a higher fungicide concentration found in the fewer droplets from the drone and therefore it might be a little bit more effective and be the reason why it has a slight advantage.

“Between the downdraft and the drone’s ability to maintain a consistent distance from the top of that cop canopy — that might have something to do with it, too.”

Based on the 2023 research, Beck’s is implementing a new drone carrier rate study for 2024.

“We’re going to continue to test these fungicide application methods this summer in multiple locations to help build a robust, multiyear dataset,” Carmer said.

Preliminary data suggests that drones are a promising way to apply fungicide — especially if planes or ground machines aren’t an easy or timely option on your farm.

“However you decide to apply fungicide, make sure you are hitting the right timing,” Scherer reminded listeners. “As a quick reminder, our PFR-proven timing on corn is that VT-R1 growth stage and R3 on soybeans.”

Learn more at www.beckshybrids.com.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor