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Stage Could Be Set For Corn Ear Diseases

Stage Could Be Set For Corn Ear Diseases
Keep an eye out for various ear rot diseases favored by these growing season conditions.

This season could bring a good corn crop to many people. It could also bring a few hiccups between now and fall. One of them could be problems with ear rots.

Danny Greene, crop consultant, Greene Crop Consulting, Franklin, says that with many plants trying to put on two ears and all the silks and other tissue in the field, plus the weather, conditions could be set up for diplodia ear rot. He will be watching for it in fields that he scouts for customers.

Moldy corn: the two ears on the left with whitish mold are infected with diplodia. The ears on the right have gibberella mold working down from the tip. (Photo courtesy Chuck Woloshuk, Purdue University Extension plant pathologist)

Kiersten Wise and Chuck Woloshuk, Purdue University Extension plant pathologists, agree ear rot diseases are definitely worth watching for this year. You may want to check with your seedsman to see if the hybrids you planted differ in tolerance to these diseases. It might pay to check first in fields that don't have as good a package against diseases, especially ear rots, as other hybrids.

Diplodia usually starts at the base of the ear and moves upward, Woloshuk notes. It is most often a white mold that clings to the ear underneath the shuck.

In contrast, gibberella starts at the tip of the ear and moves downward. Look for a pinkish color with this mold. Corn infected with gibberella shouldn't be used for livestock feed if at all possible. It can cause some animals, especially pigs, to go off feed.

While most people are experiencing a wet year, there are pockets of dry areas. The disease more common in dry years is aspergillus, a greenish mold. It may show up on individual kernels or in larger splotches on the ear. It is the mold that produces the mycotoxin called aflatoxin that elevators sometimes check for in years when they suspect there could be a problem with the disease. Aflatoxin present in grain limits its uses, depending on the level in the grain.

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