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Goss's Wilt No Newcomer to Indiana

Goss's Wilt No Newcomer to Indiana
This headline-grabbing corn disease is a bigger threat in western states.

Near the latter part of the growing season the Internet was filled with stories about Goss's wilt. It's usually a corn disease that doesn't raise a lot of fuss. Typically farmers in the western states battle it more than corn growers in eastern states. This past year, it raised considerable noise by creating havoc in many fields in Iowa and Illinois.

The disease is already in Indiana. In fact, Betsy Bower with Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute, days it was positively identified in Indiana in 3008. The first positive identification was in northwest Indiana. Even this past year, reports of the disease were confined to a half-dozen counties in northwest Indiana, as far as the Hoosier state goes.

Purdue Extension specialists say it's worse in popcorn growing areas because popcorn is very susceptible. It's also worse in areas where farmers raise continuous corn, or practice no-till or minimum tillage and leave lots of corn residue on the surface. That's because the disease can overwinter in the field where it's located, by overwintering in the residue.

If someone approaches you and tells you that they will scout your field and spray a fungicide for you to control Goss's wilt if necessary next year, be wary. First of all, Goss's wilt is not caused by a fungicide. It is instead caused by a bacteria. So spraying with a fungicide will have no positive effect on stopping Goss's wilt.

Second, most experts aren't assuming that the disease will automatically spread eastward into Indiana beyond where it already is just because it was prevalent in Illinois last year. Instead, they blame the high occurrence of the disease in Illinois and Iowa on a large outbreak of severe storms with wind and hail that continued for a good part of the growing season. Those situations tend to allow this bacterium to move from one area to another.

The best advice most experts are giving is to plant hybrids that aren't as susceptible if you can find them, and consider going to a corn-bean rotation if you've been in continuous corn. If you're no-tilling and soil erosion isn't a threat, and you're in the part of Indiana where Goss's wilt has been identified, you may want to rethink including some more tillage in your system to reduce the amount of residue, providing less opportunity for the organism to overwinter.  
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