MOSCOW, Idaho -- At $20 or more an acre to chemically treat a disease deteriorating a farmer's crop, accurately identifying and correctly treating that disease becomes critical to maintaining a healthy yield -- and saving growers time and money.
"When you're paying to have (a) plane fly over your crops, you want to make sure you're treating the right thing," said Washington Grain Commission program director Mary Palmer Sullivan. "The bottom line is that growers only want to use chemicals as needed ... otherwise it's time and money down the drain."
With cooler temperatures, and in some areas record rainfall, growers are seeing more and more disease in their fields over the last few years, said Steve Van Vleet, an extension educator for Washington State University.
That's why this year's WSU Whitman County Extension's 2011 Crop Diagnostic Clinic on Wednesday focused on how to accurately diagnose crop problems and strategies to improve crop management for small grains.
"This is one of the worst problems growers have seen over the last several years," he said. "Because we've been getting so much moisture and cool temperatures, some of their yields have been suffering dramatically."
About 60 growers and other members of the agriculture industry from around Washington and Idaho attended the second annual day-long event.
Presenters included soil fertility specialists, plant physiologists from the United States Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Services and from WSU, weed identification specialists, researchers and extension educators.
On-site demonstrations and presentations were given in six areas: leaf diseases, root diseases, fertility, herbicide injury and symptomology, weed identification and wireworm symptomology and control.
Growers can use a combination of methods to identify and combat different diseases such as Rhizoctonia root rot, Pythium root rot and cereal cyst nematodes, among others.
Using fresh seeds instead of 2-year or 3-year-old seeds and researching and implementing genetic resistance can help control those diseases, said Kimberly Campbell, a plant physiologist with the USDA-ARS.
Knowing the different symptoms of what causes each disease can help farmers know what to treat for and when to treat. The more proactive and accurate a farmer can be while treating disease, the less that grower will have to pay in spraying costs and the less they'll lose out on yield at the end of a season, Van Vleet said.
Maintaining a balance of when to seed can also help minimize effects of the diseases, Campbell said. By seeding in warmer, drier soil, growers will generally see less disease-related problems, but that can also lead to a farmer experiencing less yield.
Van Vleet said the workshop is a method for farmers to communicate with each other and with researchers, while scientists studying agriculture can learn from the people dealing with the diseases first hand in the field.
"The more educated we all are on our crop systems, the more we learn about problems associated with the agriculture industry," he said. "If we can make those connections ... we'll be on the same page when we try to battle these problems."
Participants in the clinic earn credits toward their required private or commercial state pesticide application licenses.
The clinic was initially organized with start-up funding from the Washington Grain Commission and will be sustained by a $100 registration fee per participant in the future, Van Vleet said. The event is organized by members of WSU's Whitman County Extension Office.
Van Vleet said he hopes to be able to host the workshops at different locations each year to reach out to new farmers and industry representatives in central and eastern Washington.
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(c) 2011, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.