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Continue to Watch for Ear Rots in Corn Fields

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Corn ear rot
Corn ear rot
Credit: Seed Consultants

As harvest begins across the eastern Corn Belt, corn growers should scout for ear rots in their fields. In the past few weeks while making yield estimates and walking corn fields, it has become apparent that ear rots will be a concern this fall. Corn ear rots reduce corn yield, affect grain quality, and can lead to the development of mycotoxins in grain. Below are symptoms and toxin concerns for ear rots that may be present in corn fields this fall:

• Aspergillus ear rot: Symptoms appear as an olive-green mold on corn kernels that usually occurs at the tip of the ear. Aspergillus ear rot produces aflatoxin which is toxic to livestock and considered a carcinogen as well.

• Fusarium ear rot: Symptoms include white to pink colored mold on kernels. This mold can infect small areas of kernels on the ear or be scattered in a random patter across the ear. Fusarium ear rot sometimes occurs where insects have damaged kernels the ear. Fusarium ear rot produces mycotoxins which create a toxicity concern for both human and livestock consumption.

• Gibberella ear rot: Symptoms include a pink mold that usually begins at the ear tip. Fusarium ear rot produces 2 toxins, including DON which is also referred to as vomitoxin. DON is toxic to livestock, especially hogs.

• Diploidia ear rot: Symptoms include a thick white or gray colored mold that begins at the base of the corn ear.

It is critical for corn growers to scout fields and determine if ear rots are present. Infected fields should be harvested and dried early, then segregated from grain not affected by ear rots. Adjust combines so lighter, damaged kernels will be sorted out and left in the field. Drying grain to below 15% moisture will prevent further development of ear rots. For more information on ear rots and their management, click here.

Matt Hutcheson, CCA
Seed Consultants, Inc.