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Diane Karr“Mommy! Look at the air behind the plane!”

“That’s not air, that’s fungicide.”

“What’s fungicide?”

“A fungicide kills fungus. A fungus is like a tiny germ that can make a plant sick. You know how you get sick with strep throat? That’s caused by germs called bacteria. See the spots on the leaves of this flower plant? That’s probably close to what a fungus would do to the corn.”

diane karr commonground nebraska crop duster

I think that made sense to my six-year-old, but he was much more interested in watching the plane buzz past our grain bins and turn around over our machine shed!

An application of fungicide to corn promotes plant health by targeting the fungus that causes premature plant death. Gray Leaf Spot is a fungus typically seen in our no-till cropping system in Nebraska. With prior years’ crop residue as mulch in the field, it can harbor this type of fungus. Southern Rust is an airborne fungus that can cause substantial damage if not treated, although this is not a problem we see on a yearly basis.
In the past when we didn’t treat corn with a fungicide to keep the plant healthy, our yield was impacted. Besides preserving yield, better plant health allows the stalks to be stronger throughout the harvesting season. Lack of standability from fungus infestation can make harvest inefficient in terms of time and cost.

Other crop applications that may be happening by plane this time of year include foliar feed nitrogen, or treatment for insect pests if needed.

Soybeans may also benefit from fungicide, but results vary as to its cost effectiveness.

diane karr commonground nebraska crop duster2

While the innovation of flight has been around for over 100 years, it’s still impressive to me that someone had the imagination and determination to put man in the air, and put this mechanical accomplishment to practical use. This technology allows us to treat a field that otherwise would have been damaged. Most corn this time of year is so tall that no motorized spray tractor could have enough clearance to treat it.

The roar of a small airplane over the house is always, somehow, a little exciting. From our back yard that day, we continued to play with our baby kittens and watch the “air show.” (There was no wind, so drift from the spray was not a concern.) It’s always a little amazing to watch a pilot’s skillful grasp of how close the plane can be to buildings, power lines, and the ground, while being safe and in control.

I often wonder, do the pilots realize that little feet race out to the deck to catch a glimpse of them zooming over us?  Can they see my boys waving up at them?

And do the pilots having as much fun flying the planes as we do watching them?





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