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Scout for Ear Rots

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With the extreme wet weather we have seen across the Eastern Corn Belt this growing season some growers have had concerns about ear rots developing. Our agronomy staff has spent a great deal of time in the field and plots over the last several weeks and we have not seen any widespread issues as of yet. However, last week while walking several plots I found a few ears with ear rot (see picture above).

Common Ear Rots Observed in Our Sales Footprint:

Fusarium Ear and Kernel Rot

Symptoms include white to pink cottony. Infected kernels can be scattered on the ear or in patches as well. Insect damaged kernels are especially prone to infection. Fusarium ear and kernel rot can produce mycotoxins.

Diplodia Ear Rot

Symptoms include dense white mold that starts from the base of the ear and can spread over kernels/husks. Raised black fruiting bodies can be seen late in the season with Diplodia. Disease development is favored by wet weather just after silking and can be more severe in corn planted after corn. Diplodia doesn’t produce mycotoxins.

Gibberella Ear Rot

Symptoms include white to pink mold that starts at the tip of the ear and grows toward the base. Gibberella is common in cool, wet weather from silking to harvest. This disease can produce mycotoxins including DON (or vomitoxin) that is toxic to livestock, especially swine. Gibberella can produce high amounts of toxins even if symptoms do not appear to be severe

Aspergillus Ear and Kernel Rot

Symptoms include gray-green or olive green powdery mold. Mold

growth starts at the tip of the ear and can follow insect damage in the ear. Aspergillus can produce mycotoxins and is also considered a carcinogen.

Ear Rot Management:

  • Ear rots may be found any year, but in some areas this year they are worse due to wet weather following silking
  • Scout fields to determine if ear rots are present and identify which rots have developed
  • Fields with ear rots should be harvested as early as possible and dried to moisture below 15% to prevent the continued development of molds
  • It is not recommended grain affected by ear molds is stored, however, it should be kept separate from grain not affected if it is stored in a bin
  • Any grain affected by ear rots should be tested for mycotoxins before feeding to livestock
  • Although not all ear rots will produce mycotoxins, they will reduce yield, grain quality, and may cause dock fees when sold to an elevator

Matt Hutcheson, CCA

Seed Consultants