Monitor Late-Season Corn Diseases To Preserve Grain Quality

DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 27, 2010 - Growers need to be alert to late-season corn diseases such as stalk rots, ear rots and foliar diseases such as Goss's wilt, says an expert at Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business. Detecting late-season corn diseases as soon as possible, assessing their potential impact and harvesting early in some situations can help preserve grain quality.

"The warm, humid weather has primed the pump for fungal diseases in the later part of this growing season," says Scott Heuchelin, Pioneer research scientist, field pathology.

"When the crop reaches physical maturity, it stops actively growing and uses its energy reserves to fill the ear," he says. "During this time, root and crown infections, established earlier in the year during saturated soil conditions, can take off and aggressively infect the plant's crown and stalk tissues."

If growers see tops dieback during ear fill, nutrients to the top part of the plant are possibly being cut off by crown or stalk rots, says Heuchelin. If top dieback is evident, test the stalk integrity by pinching the base of the stalk or pushing the plant to the side to assess lodging potential. Fields with significant lodging potential should be harvested first to preserve yield potential.

"If the ear leaf or husk leaves begin to bleach out, this could be a sign of ear rots," he says. "Fusarium, Diplodia and Gibberella are the main ear rots in the northern Corn Belt. Frequent precipitation events from tasseling through ear fill create ideal environments for Diplodia and Gibberella ear rots. Warmer temperatures during this wet period favor Diplodia and cooler temps favor Gibberella. Fusarium ear rots occur most frequently when corn experiences prolonged heat and drought-stress environments."

Agronomists and researchers often see ear rots show up in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Ontario. This season, additional regions that experienced significant precipitation and humidity may fall victim, too. Pioneer offers hybrids with resistance ratings to these ear rots.

"This year is setting the stage for Diplodia to be prominent in parts of the Corn Belt where fields received a lot of precipitation just before tassel emergence and through pollination," he says. "Pioneer offers several hybrids that have good resistance to Diplodia, and the company continues to improve resistance to corn stalk rots and ear rots across the product line. Pioneer is a leader in grain quality not just with high test weights but also preserving grain quality with resistance to ear rots like Diplodia, Gibberella and Fusarium."

Growers who see ear rots in their fields may want to harvest early and dry corn to 15 percent moisture or below to prevent further molding during storage. In the future, select ear rot resistant hybrids, practice crop rotation and increase tillage to reduce incidence of these diseases.

Goss's wilt, historically more localized in the Great Plains, has been moving eastward into the Midwest and may cause problems late in the season in fields that encountered severe weather.

"It's recently been reported in eastern Nebraska, the Dakotas, Manitoba, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana," he says. "It typically occurs as the result of hail events and storms. When plants sustain injuries from hail or wind, the Goss's wilt bacterium can infect the leaves where they have been abraded. If growers have had hail damage, they should be on alert."

Heuchelin says Goss's wilt can cause significant yield loss on some hybrids, but PioneerĀ® brand hybrids typically show good resistance to the disease. Goss's wilt tends to be more of a problem for cornfields that incurred plant damage, especially in corn-on-corn and minimum or no-till fields.

"This is a bacterial disease," he says. "Fungicides will not help. Sometimes I hear about people recommending fungicides, but they are ill-informed. Instead, manage the debris, which is the source of the inoculum, and work in rotation and tillage along with resistant genetics."

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, is the world's leading developer and supplier of advanced plant genetics, providing high-quality seeds to farmers in more than 90 countries. Pioneer provides agronomic support and services to help increase farmer productivity and profitability and strives to develop sustainable agricultural systems for people everywhere. Science with Service Delivering SuccessTM.

DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 90 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.