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A Banner Year for White Mold

By Jake Hansen, Agronomist

Growing conditions this summer and an atypical August came together to create almost perfect conditions for white mold development. Rapid above-ground plant growth led to tall plants and an early canopy close—one of the conditions for white mold. The others—cool conditions and high humidity—arrived in the form of an unusually cool, humid August.

When conditions are right, white mold is most likely to occur in high-yielding environments—on good soils with high fertility and high plant populations. When the conditions are right, start scouting early. White mold can show up as early as R1. Take a close look at areas of the field prone to higher moisture, such as areas where you tend to see morning fog.

To check your soybeans for white mold, get into the field, spread the rows apart and look at the lower half of the plant. Look for a white fluffy growth on the stems, mixed with hard, black structures, which are the reproductive bodies of the fungus.

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to prevent white mold. Some varieties do provide resistance. Fungicides can be used as a preventive measure, but not as a curative once the fungus is present. Culturally, lowering plant populations and planting in wider rows can help. Soybeans do an excellent job of compensating for open space, and dropping planting rates from 175,000 to 140,000, for example, on good ground shouldn’t impact yield significantly. Planting that field to another crop for two or three years will also reduce the likelihood of a white mold outbreak.

Finally, if you have a field with high levels of white mold, harvest it last. Harvesting equipment can spread the reproductive spores from field to field. Wash your equipment thoroughly after harvesting infected fields.

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