By Don Donovan
Are you concerned about using fungicides in your farming operation? Are there other ways to control soilborne fungal diseases? Some farmers are trying a different approach than the standard fungicide treatment. They’re using brassicas in their cover crop mixes, and are finding reduced need for fungicides in some cases.
Brassicas include the various mustards and rapeseed, among other plants. They also include oilseed radishes and turnips. Brassicas can provide suppression of soil fungal disease problems.
Brassicas are of interest in that they produce glucosinolates, which can be converted into chemicals in the soil that provide biofumigant activity. These secondary chemicals behave like the active chemical in commercial fumigants.
To see if planting brassicas would help on your farm, consider setting up strip trials in a field that may have soil fungal disease concerns. Leave a control strip in addition to any treatment strip you wish to try. You can compare fungicide products in addition to a fall-seeded brassica cover crop. The width of the strips should be at least twice the width of the combine header you’ll use to harvest the crop. With the assistance of your local crop adviser, monitor the strips over the growing season, noting any differences in disease incidence, crop health and yield.
If you have soilborne disease issues, doing a strip trial may provide information you need to deal with the situation.
Donovan is a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He writes from Rockville, Ind., on behalf of the Indiana Conservation Partnership.