Agronomic Crop Diseases

 Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist;

Small Grains
Be sure that you plant wheat varieties with high levels of disease resistance. Select varieties with high levels of resistance to powdery mildew, leaf rust and stripe rust. Seed should be treated with Baytan, Raxil or Dividend to protect plants from loose smut and common bunt. Varieties that are susceptible to powdery mildew should be treated with Baytan, Dividend or other seed treatment that will protect them from early infection.

Do not ignore soybean cyst nematode. Soil sampling after harvest before any fall tillage is recommended for fields to be planted next season to soybeans following this year’s crop. Do not plant SCN susceptible varieties without soil testing first. Soil sample bags are available from the county Extension offices for $10/sample bag.

Septoria brown spot and downy mildew are still evident on some late beans. Most levels that I have seen should not limit yield in any way.

Charcoal rot was diagnosed this week on a Group IV soybean in Sussex County. The irregular spots of dead and dying soybeans at first observation looked as if they were maturing due to the drought but upon closer observation of the roots and stems that it was charcoal rot. This soilborn fungus infects soybeans early in the season and if stress conditions persist, infection results in lower stem decay and prematurely dead plants. The spots were not that large and the plants did set some pods but it would have been easy to just think it was the drought. Rotation and planting later maturing varieties in areas where charcoal rot has been a problem in the past is the best control program.


Charcoal rot on split soybean stem. Note the powdered charcoal appearance of the microsclerotia imbedded in the stem tissue and scattered in the pith.

Corn harvest is underway so be sure to check corn fields for lodging potential by squeezing the lower nodes or pushing on the stalks. A simple way to do this is to walk through the field and, keeping your hands at chest height, push stalks 8-10 inches from vertical. If 10-15% of the stalks lodge, schedule the field for early harvest before a strong wind results in severe lodging.

Fusarium ear rot caused by Fusarium moniliforme also know as Fusarium verticillioides has been seen this week in several locations. Hybrids that have been holding their ears vertical and have poor ear cover can be more susceptible to ear rots that benefit from moisture trapped in the ears. Ears that have been damaged by insects, particularly corn earworm, can also have more ear rot fungal infections. Fusarium moniliforme can produce mycotoxins called fumonisins (see below), but not all isolates of the fungus produce fumonisins. Infected grain should be dried to 15% or below to prevent mold growth in storage.

When evaluating an ear rot problem, remember that certain ear rots are a warning sign to suspect toxins, but ear rots do not always lead to toxin problems. When potentially toxigenic ear rots are noticed in the field, grain can be managed to minimize toxin development. If more than 10 percent of ears have a significant amount of mold (25 percent of the ear or more), these fields should be harvested and the corn dried as soon as possible. The combine will remove some of the moldiest kernels.

The best option for moldy grain is to feed it or sell it instead of storing it. However, it should be tested for toxins before feeding. Testing for mycotoxins can be done before putting the grain in storage. The best sampling method is to take a composite sample of at least 10 pounds from a moving grain stream, or to take multiple probes in a grain cart or truck for a composite 10-pound sample. If toxins are present, it is possible that it can be fed to a less sensitive livestock species, such as beef cattle (depending on the specific toxin and its concentration). A veterinarian or extension specialist can help with these decisions. If the grain is sold, there may be a reduced price due to mold damage.

Cleaning the grain removes fine particles that are usually the moldiest and most susceptible to further mold development. “Good storage conditions (proper temperature and moisture content, aeration, insect control, clean bins) and regular inspection are essential in preventing mold and toxin development in any stored corn.” G. Munkvold (Iowa State Univ. Ext.)


Fusarium ear rot caused by Fusarium moniliforme

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