John Wilde looked over a field of cotton near his San Angelo, Texas farm and noted the differences between several test plots on one side of a field road. Some plots looked healthy with potential to make exceptional yields; others showed large areas of dead cotton stalks and poor yield prospects.

He looked to the other side of that narrow path, where no trials have been applied, and figured yield loss will be 50 percent or higher.

Wilde and his son Doug have turned this cotton patch over to Texas AgriLife Research and Extension scientists who are using it to test control options for cotton root rot, a devastating disease that costs Southern Rolling Plains farmers thousands of dollars every year.

“This is a root rot nursery,” Wilde says. “Usually, we would rotate this field out of cotton to corn to manage root rot, but we know that it’s a good place to test control options.” He says the sacrifice will be worth the trouble if scientists find a viable control for root rot.

They may be close. After testing several fungicides through subsurface drip irrigation injection for several years, Extension IPM specialist Rick Minzenmayer and Extension plant pathologist Tom Isakeit discovered that flutriafol, a fungicide labeled only for soybeans and apples, will control the fungus that causes root rot. (Early results were reported in a Southwest Farm Press article last December.)