Diagnosing Plant Health Issues

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Diseases and pathogens affect the aesthetics of plants. Acquiring a working knowledge of the common signs and symptoms of crop diseases is that the best start line for effective crop management. These problems may result in failure , low-quality yield and premature death of plants. In diagnosing plant health problems, it’s important to work out the particularity and typical characteristics of a crop. Since the inception of human civilization, plant diseases have a history of adverse effects on crops.
Diagnosing Plant Health Problems
Diagnosis is the process of gathering information about a problem, that affects a plant and establishing its cause. Corn scientifically known as Zea mays is the most ingenious cash crop having wider adaptability under varied climatic conditions. The origin of corn dates back to 10,000 years ago when it was first domesticated by indigenous people of southern Mexico.

Corn Row Corn Plantation

Corn cultivation is easy since it grows well under varying temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius. Corn farming requires rainfall of 50-90 millimeters as it is not recommended to cultivate in areas that have rainfall above 100 millimeters. During cultivation, one should consider using soils that have a high water retention capacity and good organic matter for better yields (Tilman et al. 671).

The conditions that predispose corn crop to pest, diseases, and deficiencies depends on factors such as, the status of the host, the presence and type of pathogen, and the environment that influences the pathogen. The pest, diseases, and deficiencies that are typically found in corn include downy mildew and leaf blight. Large oval spots along with reddish brown margins along the leaves are indications of leaf blight infection (Tilman et al. 659)

Prolonged wet weather causes the infected leaves to wither and die. Use of hybrid seeds that are specifically resistant to leaf blight and crop rotation are ways of managing leaf blight disease. Crop rotation and planting of disease resistant seeds can reduce the likelihood of most disease outbreaks affecting corn. Downy mildew occurs when the soil is flooded before planting. Infected plants appear crooked and stunted. Sufficient and proper drainage provides the best means of managing this disease (Anderson 537).

Reviewing of the previous crop history, identifying and mapping of the disease problems in the field will aid in the management and prevention of corn disease. Corn growing should be done early enough to ensure that the bulk of the crop can be planted during this ideal period to maximize the yield. Early planting ensures that corn produces high yields and reaches maturity earlier hence can be harvested sooner (Altieri 203).

Corn is predominantly a summer crop. Corn is best cultivated in a climate that offers long sun filled days and warm weather. Corn is susceptible to frost; therefore, the cultivation of corn in temperate latitudes is limited. It is prudent that corn farmers select corn best suited to their local climatic conditions (Anderson, et al. 542)

Corn thrives best in a richly organic, moist soil. The ideal soil for growing corn should be well-drained soil, though organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, and compost can be added to the soil to improve its drainage and overall quality. The plain regions are the most suitable for corn cultivation as they provide ease of access of farm machinery (Tilman et al. 676).

Corn can be attacked by a variety of pests including wireworms, cutworms, flea beetles, corn earworms, and corn borers. A disease manifestation can be identified through a change in the growth and general representation of a plant (Altieri 205).

Corn infected with blight Smut infection in corn

Corn is highly susceptible to a fungus disease known as smut and a pathological bacterial disease called Stewart’s wilt. Corn smut causes maize kernels to swell and change their color from black to gray. For efficient and proper management of the disease, destroy all the affected plants. Stewart’s wilt is one of the bacterial diseases which affect corn. It is caused by flea beetles. Wilt causes corn leaves to turn yellow, and the crop becomes stunted in growth. To effectively manage wilt, a farmer should consider planting hybrid seed varieties which are disease resistant. Flea beetles can be controlled by placing agricultural lime around plants or wood ash (Anderson, et al. 536).

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an environmentally favorable approach to controlling pests in the field. Traditionally pest control involved the routine application of chemicals or pesticides. However, IPM program focuses on pest prevention and use of pesticides only as needed. IPM provides an environmentally sensitive and a more practical approach for pest prevention. IPM involves integrating some multiple control methods based on information obtained through inspection, monitoring, and reports. Every IPM program is designed based on eradication needs of the situation and pest prevention goals (Tilman et al. 671).

Successful farm operations require simple management techniques that can yield substantial impacts on output. These undertakings include selecting high performing yields, crop rotation, early planting, optimizing plant density, and narrow row spacing to improve on corn yields (Anderson, et al. 542)

Successful IPM implementation approach involves identifying pests and monitoring their progress, setting action thresholds, seeking prevention measures and control. Action thresholds are critical to guiding pest control decisions. IPM program focuses on prevention by removing conditions that attract pests. Pest control approach will be implemented if action thresholds are exceeded. IPM programs will consider using lowest risk options such as pest trapping, physical removal and pesticide application (Rosenzweig et al. 92)

Seeds should be treated with Thiram or Carbendazim at two grams per kg of seeds to control any seed borne pathogens like Downy mildew. Other than farmyard manure applied during land preparation, inorganic fertilizers such as urea, super phosphate, and potash should be added as a basal dose. 20 days after sowing, use 50- 60 kilograms of urea per acre, then after 40 days, apply 120 kg of urea and 50 kg of potash as a top dresser (Altieri, 207).

Machinery and equipment needed for successful corn cultivation include Tractors, planters, irrigation equipment and spraying equipment for herbicides and fertilizer application. A tractor is required for plowing, planting, cultivation, and spraying (Altieri, 203).

A control program should be based on an integrated use of culture to optimize vigor and growth. One such approach is sanitation, which focuses on minimizing the introduction of disease causing agents through careful plant selection. Planting hybrid seeds which have high tolerance towards diseases results in healthy plants and an increased production of corn. The primary objective is to minimize or prevent disease outbreaks caused by viruses, pathogens, and nematodes associated with corn (Rosenzweig et al. 97)

Planning and execution of corn cultivation are critical if farmers aim to maximize the potential of today’s elite corn hybrids. Timely planting of hybrids corn allows the corn crop to take full advantage of its growing season. Narrow row spacing should improve crop yields because spacing plants result in the more efficient use of moisture, light, and nutrients. Tilling of the farm is performed to bury residue, control weeds, and enhance seed soil contact of the planted crop (Tilman et al. 272).

Documenting of pest control actions is critical in evaluating the success of the IPM plan. It should include an organized on site record kept for each pest control service including all pesticides applied, evidence of non- chemical control measures effected, and recommendations made for the prevention and management of future pest problems (Rosenzweig et al. 95)

Conclusion.

Disease management does not necessarily eliminate a disease but manages it to acceptable levels. Sturdy knowledge of common signs and symptoms is very significant for proper diagnosis. Due to the diversification of plant health problems and causal factors, it is prudent to learn how to recognize diseases, understand their causes and occurrence.

Works Cited.

Altieri, Miguel A., and Clara I. Nicholls. “Soil fertility management and insect pests: harmonizing soil and plant health in agroecosystems.” Soil and Tillage Research 72.2 (2003): 203-211.

Anderson, Pamela K., et al. “Emerging infectious diseases of plants: pathogen pollution, climate change and agro technology drivers.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution 19.10 (2004): 535-544.

Rosenzweig, Cynthia, et al. “Climate change and extreme weather events; implications for food production, plant diseases, and pests.” Global change & human health 2.2 (2001): 90-104.

Tilman, David, et al. “Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices.” Nature 418.6898 (2002): 671-680.

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