Southern Rust

Several of us had been watching the USDA IPM Pipe Map for weeks.  It wasn’t showing southern rust moving and only Georgia2013-07-30 09.31.26 was really lit up.  Yet, I had heard reports in Texas and Oklahoma at one point.  Spots were evident on corn leaves when backlit-so they were bound to develop into something.

That something has showed itself to be southern rust last week as it was confirmed in 11 Nebraska Counties:  Kearney, Adams, Clay, Nuckolls, Thayer, Fillmore, Gage, Platte, Polk, York, and Boone.  I’d like to thank all the crop consultants and ag industry professionals for sharing information on what we all were seeing and for submitting samples.  2013-07-30 11.44.36

So the common question was, why didn’t the map show anything south of us?  Federal funding was no longer available for this site and scouting efforts associated with it.  Many Extension Plant Pathologists weren’t aware that the site was even still online and were sharing information via other means instead.  The map for Nebraska will continue to be updated, but for surrounding states, it is advised to consult with your local Extension Plant Pathologist.

Differentiating Rusts:

When differentiating between southern rust vs. common rust, there are several criteria to consider and this NebGuide is a great resource.  Typically common rust will have brick-red pustules randomly scattered on the upper and lower leaf surfaces that are larger in size.

For southern rust, we’re seeing very small, raised, tan-orange pustules on the upper leaf surface of leaves in localized areas on mid-upper leaves.  These pustules are tightly clustered on the leaves. Fungal spores of Puccinia sorghi, the pathogen causing common rust. However, color and size are relative as sometimes the two diseases can look alike.

Microscopic observation is the best way to differentiate the two diseases.  Fungal spores from Puccinia sorghi causing common rust will be near perfect round circles whereas fungal spores from Puccinia polysora will be oblong in shape.

Disease Progression:

With the cooler weather last week, we were unsure how the disease would progress. Southern rust likes sustained temperatures in the 80’s-90’sF with humidity and leaf wetness.  So we encourage scouting for it.

We saw how southern rust can be devastating to fields in the past regarding removing photosynthetic tissue leading to cannabalization of the stalk.  In determining a fungicide application, consider Physoderma brown spotdisease pressure in your field, stage of growth, pre-harvest intervals, and length of time for fungicide residual in addition to economics.


Other plant samples brought in contained diseases such as physoderma brown spot (which isn’t a significant yield limiting disease of corn).  Because the spores of this fungus move via water (it’s closely related to oomycetes), numerous lesions can appear on leaves in bands or areas where water collects.  While the lesions may look like early southern rust, there will be no pustules present and often the purple colored lesions will also be observed in the midrib, leaf sheath, stalk, and outer husks.

About jenreesources

I'm the Crops and Water Extension Educator for York and Seward counties in Nebraska with a focus in irrigated crop production and plant pathology.

Posted on August 5, 2013, in Crop Updates, Diseases and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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