We’ve come to rely on fungicides, because we trust them to do what they say on the tin: they deal with disease, right? But as Dean Konieczka, consultant agronomist with OMEX® Agrifluids points out, sometimes our fungicide friends need a little help if they’re to perform at their best.
Plant pathologists often agree that the main reason diseases and plant pathogens get a hold in the plant is because of stress. Just like humans, who are more susceptible to picking up a cold or getting sick when we’re suffering from burnout, plants too have a less effective immune defense when they’re stressed.
Now, while we value fungicides for their ability to control and protect against disease, everyone’s also acutely aware of the increasing incidence of fungicide resistance. That’s making newer fungicides harder to find and to get approved, which in turn adds to the cost of those few that do make it to market.
Many growers are mindful of the need to ‘steward’ their fungicide use, making efforts to save them for when they have no alternative. So is it possible to use fewer fungicides?
At OMEX, we’d say the answer is an unreserved ‘Yes!’, thanks to discoveries made by OMEX® scientists who focused on the connection between nutrition and crop health. That came about because we decided to go back to basics.
Every plant in every crop has a singular objective: to deliver yield. Depending on the crop, that yield will be in vegetative form — leaves, stalks, tubers — or reproductive form, such as fruit, grains or nuts.
Irrespective of the crop, the plant’s goal in life is simply to produce as many leaves or fruits as possible. That’s all down to its genetic programming — and it’s these genetics that will determine what we refer to as the yield potential.
And it’s named thus for a reason: it’s the potential of what the plant might achieve, under perfect conditions without any limiting factors such as nutrients, water, pests, competing weeds and, of course, disease. In practice, we use our crop management programs — the fertilizers, irrigation, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, often in conjunction with a controlled environment like the high-tunnel — in an attempt to modify the crop’s local environment to remove, or reduce, the effect of those limiting factors.
Of course, there’s only so much we can do, which is why plant scientists are beginning to look at optimization of the plant’s internal environment too. Can we modify or support its physiological systems and processes to ensure it lacks for nothing in pursuit of its genetic potential?
The OMEX® research team looked specifically at the connection between nutrition and crop health. As many growers will know, it’s an area that’s suffered from the attention of pseudo-scientists and supposed ‘miracle cures’ for years. That’s often discouraged ‘proper’ research, as has the availability of effective fungicides: when you’ve curative and protective options available, there’s little incentive to investigate other avenues.
Now, with growers’ attention switching to more sustainable growing practices, including integrated crop management (ICM), the idea is gaining traction.
That’s how the OMEX® team settled on a combination of copper and zinc for further research: these are elements already known to play an important role in crop health. Zinc helps to maintain the plant’s integumentary system, comprising the epidermis, leaf cuticle and plant hairs: this is the plant’s first line of defense against physical damage and pathogenic attack. Zinc also improves elasticity, wound healing and disease suppression. Copper facilitates the production of phenolics, a group of compounds that influence plant growth and defense responses.
The end result? Cell Power® Zynergy™, the first ‘functional fertilizer’ from OMEX. It’s a fertilizer that — thanks to its formulation — acts like a fungicide without being registered as one. Trials across a range of crops, from potatoes and roots through to vegetables and fruit, show that it complements the fungicidal activity of established agrochemicals.
Significantly, the effects are synergistic: the combined effect of Zynergy™ and the agrochemical is greater that the effect achieved through using the individual products alone. Our team’s still working to understand the specific mode of action, although it’s clear that it’s the increased availability of the copper and zinc that is helping the plant to better withstand the attack by the pathogen.
What does this mean for the average grower? Well, in a low-fungicide program, Zynergy™ delivers a statistically significant impact on disease levels when applied early in the season. This should help growers better manage their workloads by keeping disease levels low and avoiding the need for any ‘fire truck’ treatments.
So while it doesn’t remove the need for fungicides, it does reduce the pressure on them. Even in the absence of disease, it remains a highly effective foliar fertilizer across a wide range of crops.
It’s this ‘dual action’ offering that’s already helped Zynergy™ find a home in the integrated crop management programs of many U.S. growers.
For more information about OMEX® Cell Power® Zynergy™, visit www.omexusa.com.
The OMEX® team is always available to answer queries and questions from growers about vegetable nutrition.
Learn more at www.OMEXusa.com.
The product names and brands referenced here are registered and trademarks of OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc.
© OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc. 2021.