By Darren Hefty

Could a $2 investment in your wheat result in $100 of profit?  It sure could.  Then again, it could only result in a $10 profit.  That’s the thing with crop inputs – you have to look at the average gain over a period of years to make the best decisions for your farm.  So where do you need to invest this year and what could potentially give you a big return?  Here are a few things to consider.

Flag Leaf Fungicide – There is definitely stripe rust out there this year.  When will it hit your area?  If your wheat is at flag leaf and stripe rust is close, the odds of a really strong return on investment from a fungicide application are very good.  As you well know, a clean and healthy flag leaf is key to maximizing your yield.  Suggestion: Invest $10-11 per acre in 7 oz. of Nexicor or 10 oz. of Stratego.  Alternative: Go with a generic Quadris (azoxystrobin) for $6-7/acre.  Keep in mind that flag leaf applications do not protect the head from things like rust and fusarium head blight (scab).

Heading Fungicide – If you’ve made it to this stage, you feel like you’re in the home stretch, but there’s still an important part of the season to go.  Once heads have emerged and you’re at about 10-15% flowering, you can now apply a fungicide to protect your crop from head scab, stripe rust, and other diseases.  There are three things here to consider:

  1. You can use a very inexpensive tebuconazole (generic Folicur) at the full 4 ounce rate for only $2/acre.  This means that the expense should not scare anyone away.  It’s an excellent rust product and does okay on scab protection.
  2. If there is a high chance of head scab, Prosaro and Caramba are a big upgrade in control.  The investment is $15/acre, but keep in mind even at today’s wheat prices it wouldn’t take much disease to double your money in a hurry.
  3. Coverage is critical.  I really like the Guardian Air Twin nozzles from Hypro at this stage.  The coverage up and down the head is best achieved with this type of nozzle set up where spray comes out at an angle and runs forward and backwards.  Use 15 to 20 gallons of water and get great coverage, and you’ll be happy you did.  Foliar fungicide can only protect the leaf surfaces it covers.

Late Season Insecticide – Bugs are another important thing to be watching for all through the season.  In some areas, this has not been a concern this year.  In other geographies, we’ve been talking to farmers who have had sweep nets full of various insects.  Scout your field for bugs before you spray anything else because most insecticides can be tankmixed with almost anything.  For a $2/acre investment, you can eliminate most, if not all of the problem bugs that are draining energy from your plants and directly lowering your yields.  It takes very few bugs to cost you $10 or more in losses.

Foliar Fertilizer – If you cut back on fertilizer this year, streambarring nitrogen and sulfur late to boost yield and protein may be of high importance for your farm.  For $5 you can pull a late season soil nitrate test to see if you’ve got enough to finish off this year’s crop.