Cotton – fungicide options and if you need them

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Cotton is blooming in Tennessee and I’ve gotten some calls asking about fungicides – there are options but none is warranted at this time, but as the rain, heat, and humidity continue we may start to see target spot develop which could justify a fungicide application.

Only since 2013, when target spot in cotton was first reported in TN, has there been a benefit to applying foliar fungicide to cotton. Hence, it is very important to be able to identify target spot from other foliar diseases. Resources at and mobile friendly field guides at contain diagnostic key for identifying different foliar diseases as well as specific information on each disease (symptoms, potential impact on yield, management options, pictures, etc.).

Fungicides labeled in cotton (product rate fl oz/a): Amistar Top 8 – 11.6, Aproach 6 – 12, Delaro 8 – 12, Headline 6 – 12, Priaxor 4 – 8, Proline 5 – 5.7, Quadris (and other Azoxystrobin products) 6 – 9, Topguard 7 – 14, Topguard EQ 5 – 7, Tebuconazole products 6 – 8

Target spot develops in the lower canopy, usually only after canopy closure. It is more problematic in high yield situations and rank growth. As the name suggestions, the lesion on leaves look like targets, with concentric rings. Main factor of the disease that has correlated to yield loss is the defoliation it can cause from the lower canopy and upwards.

Defoliation of lower canopy due to target spot
Target spot on leaf and bracts

Based on TN trial data from 2014 – 2017 only 15% of the time fungicide significantly protected yield, and those times that fungicide are beneficial depend on variety susceptibility, disease pressure, and environmental conditions (back to the factors that influence when a disease becomes a PEST – Pathogen presence, Environment, Susceptible host, and Timing – growth stage and calendar date).

When factors warrant a fungicide application, later fungicide application timings had the best probability of decreasing defoliation and protecting yield (3rd week of bloom and/or 5th week of bloom, which have correlated to when lesions are found in the lower canopy) in TN. Of the products tested, Headline and Priaxor have had the most consistent results, but again only when disease is present, weather conditions are conducive for disease development, and only when this aligns during certain time of year will fungicide be warranted in cotton.

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