When you receive your September issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer, look for the page about ear rots in the Crops section. Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, outlines several possible ear molds to watch out for this season as late summer turns into early fall.
Why bring up ear molds? Because many ear rot fungi like moisture, and until recently, at least, many areas have had plenty of moisture. He suspected there could be ear molds present this fall. Part of it will depend upon whether or not rains return in September before the crop is physiologically mature. That happens when a black layer forms at the bottom of the kernels, normally at 30 to 35% moisture.
When checking a field for yield recently, one of the two dozen ears we pulled had a fair amount of white mold growing on one part of the ear. There was also white mold on the inner shucks against the ear.
We didn't attempt to identify the mold. However, it is a sign to check a few more ears at random. There was no outward appearance on this ear that would indicate an ear rot or ear mold problem.
This was not Gibberrella, because it has a pink color. It is the one that produces a toxin that can affect livestock. Generally the first symptoms show up in hogs. They may refuse to eat feed made with infected corn.
Ear molds are one condition that could cause you to harvest fields early, after black layer but before they reach moisture levels that you would prefer. Careful scouting to make sure it's an isolated problem and not something more widespread will be necessary.
Chuck Woloshuk, Purdue University plant pathologist, will be out tracking molds as well. Watch for news if he discovers molds growing in various areas.