Hello “Sporecaster”

A brand new tool’s been released today that can give Wisconsin soybean growers some critical advice on managing white mold.  “Sporecaster” a new real-time app created through Wisconsin soybean checkoff investment and hard work by Dr. Damon Smith, UW-Extension Plant Pathologist and his team, is now available for both Android and Apple smartphones.

The purpose of Sporecaster is to assist farmers in finding the best time to manage white mold, usually during flowering (R1 and R2 growth stages) when apothecia (small, mushroom-like structures) are present on the soil surface. Apothecia release spores which infect senescing soybean flowers, leading to the development of white mold. University research has indicated that the appearance of apothecia can be predicted using several variables including weather and amount of soybean row closure in a field. Based on this research, models have been developed to forecast the risk of apothecia being present in a soybean field. Farmers can easily input site-specific information about their soybean field into this app, which combines this information with the research-based models to predict the best timing for white mold treatment.

Sporecaster uses GPS coordinates to determine if weather has been favorable for the development of apothecia during soybean flowering in a specific field. Models in the app use 30-day averages of maximum temperature, relative humidity, and maximum wind speed to predict favorable conditions for most soybean growing regions. Based on these predictions and crop phenology, a site-specific risk prediction is generated for three scenarios (non-irrigated soybeans, soybeans planted on 15″ row-spacing and irrigated, or soybeans planted on 30″ row-spacing and irrigated).

Dr. Damon Smith, developer and UW-Extension Plant Pathologist, explained this new tool on the Wisconsin Farm Report.  He’s also created several videos that tutor users on how to get started with the app.

Android install : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ipcm.soybeandiseasecalculator

Apple install:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sporecaster/id1379793823?mt=8

To begin:   

The first step to create a new white mold risk forecast is to enter field information. This includes field name, row spacing, GPS location, and irrigation status. Use ‘Tap to select a location’ to open the map or enter custom GPS coordinates using the text input. You can use road or satellite view on the map; then tap ‘Done’. Next tap ‘Save’ and the field information will be saved in your ‘Field List’.

The forecast screen is displayed next, where flowering information is required to progress. The forecast models only run when you indicate that at least one soybean flower is present. Generally, the optimum time to run the models is between flowering and beginning pod (R1-R3 growth stages), however, flowers can be present even into full pod (R4 growth stage) on some varieties in some environments.

On 30″ rows, sufficient canopy closure is needed for the formation of apothecia. Roughly 40% closure between rows is required for apothecia to develop. The forecast models only run when canopy closure of 40% or more (Over threshold) has been selected in the app.

Choose a date for the forecast. The calendar defaults to the present date. Choose any day previous to this date to run historical risk calculations. You can also choose one or two days in the future; but be aware such forecasts are less accurate due to rapid changes in weather. Also, the models only run when the app is able to connect to the internet and download a complete 30-day set of weather for the field’s GPS location.

If Sporecaster predicts high risk (a red indication is displayed) in your area for your planting scenario, a fungicide application would be recommended. If medium risk (yellow indication in displayed) is predicted, consult Sporecaster again over the next few days to monitor the situation. High risk scenarios can develop quickly. If low risk (blue indication in the display) is predicted, then infection is not likely. However, Sporecaster should be consulted again in a week during soybean bloom (R1 and R2 growth stages) to monitor the situation.

There are two buttons at the top of the forecast screen that will show a history of past forecast results and will create an email containing the risk forecast(s) for a field that can be shared for further record keeping or management.

If a field receives a High Risk prediction using Sporecaster, we recommend consulting your local Extension personnel or resources for the best fungicide management options for your area.

To use Sporecaster in other locations, add new fields to your Field List. You can edit the Field List by swiping to delete fields. After you have used Sporecaster on several fields, you can create an email containing the forecast history of multiple fields using the ‘Export’ button.