Radio advertisements, email blasts, and other media are warning of corn diseases and the need for fungicides. Two months of humid, wet weather has allowed for disease development. It’s important to know what diseases truly are in your field before spraying a fungicide, particularly with today’s economics. Here’s what we’re seeing in fields right now in the Clay, Nuckolls, Thayer, Adams county area. Based on the diseases we’re seeing, we would recommend you scout your fields to know whether you have mostly bacterial or fungal diseases present. Consider disease pressure, where on the plant the disease is occurring, growth stage, and economics. We have had southern rust show up in 10 of the last 11 years I’ve been serving in this area. If you spray a fungicide at tassel, you may not have enough residual to ward off southern rust when it appears later, potentially resulting in the need for a second application. In our area thus far, I’m not seeing enough disease pressure in many fields to warrant a fungicide at tassel; consider delaying an application till later for economic and resistance-management reasons. Ultimately this decision needs to be done on a field by field basis. Please also see this UNL CropWatch article regarding fungicide application and corn growth stage. Although I don’t have a photo of it, I’ve also seen common rust in the mid and lower portions of corn canopies thus far.
Anthracnose has been observed in fields for a good month now. It is mostly seen on lower leaves of plants, particularly in fields where we’ve had high amounts of rainfall, standing water, and/or hail. Lesions are tan in the center and have a wavy yellow colored margin. I haven’t seen it moving up the plant very far yet. There are fungicides labeled for this, but we don’t often recommend fungicide treatment for anthracnose.
We saw this disease in the Saronville/Sutton area last year. This year, we are seeing it throughout Nuckolls, Thayer, Clay, and Adams counties…and most likely others too. Some hybrids (and have seen this across companies) are highly affected by this bacterial disease. Neither last year, nor this year, has the pathogen causing this disease been confirmed. Plants will have vein-limited lesions in streaks on the leaves. It is often confused with gray leaf spot early on. Take a hand-lens and looking closely, you will see wavy margins on the lesions which doesn’t usually occur with gray leaf spot. Over time, these lesions become elongated and can coalesce with other lesions. Also looking closely with a handlens or microscope, one finds the leaf tissue eventually becomes transparent. While other diseases can look similar to it, under the microscope, no fungal spores are found other than secondary ones. Putting an infected leaf in water reveals cytoplasmic streaming in which the bacteria is escaping the leaf tissue. (The pathogen causing Goss’ wilt also does this, but this disease is not the same as Goss’ wilt). Fungicides will not cure bacterial diseases and the products advertised for targeting bacterial diseases haven’t been researched for this disease. This is the primary disease we are seeing in our area right now-and it looks nasty in some fields! Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about it. If you are considering testing one of the products for bacterial diseases, please let me know as I’d appreciate testing it with you via on-farm research.
Goss’ wilt (bacterial disease) has been observed in fields as well. I typically notice it along field edges, pivot tracks, pivot/well roads or hail-damaged fields as plant wounds in general allow an entry for bacterial pathogens. However, research has shown that the bacterial pathogen causing Goss’ wilt can enter through the leaf stomates as well. Leaf miner damage can be observed at the top of this photo, and often, but not always, I notice this occurring together in fields. There is nothing we can do for Goss’s wilt if you have this disease in your fields right now. There are products targeting bacterial diseases on the market. If you’re interested in trying these, please consider an on-farm research experiment to prove the efficacy to yourself and help us obtain data.
Physoderma brown spot typically doesn’t occur in our area until tasseling (which is where we are at now in some fields). However, I was seeing this as early as two weeks ago on some hybrids. The pathogen causing this disease is a fungal-like pathogen that moves with water. You will notice a purple/brown color on midribs of leaves, leaf sheaths, stalks, and tiny yellow/brown/purple spots on leaves. This disease isn’t considered yield-limiting or of significance to us in Nebraska. Some confuse this disease with southern rust, but there are no pustules produced with Physoderma brown spot.
The larger, rectangular lesion is typical of gray leaf spot found in some lower leaf canopies right now. It is easy to confuse with anthracnose as both diseases appear a little different on various hybrids. Gray leaf spot will be vein-limited while anthracnose is more blotchy in appearance. Comparing gray leaf spot with the unknown bacterial disease, the lesion edge will be straight for gray leaf spot and wavy for the bacterial disease.
Northern corn leaf blight is a disease we’re hearing a lot about but I have yet to see it in our area. Most have been mistakingly calling the unknown bacterial disease shown above and even Goss’ wilt, northern corn leaf blight, but there’s truly a difference as you see these photos. Compared to gray leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight will be more cigar-shaped instead of forming a rectangle. As this photo taken from the Mead, NE area shows, lesions are often forming in close proximity to each other on the leaves in Nebraska right now. This disease is one to watch as it has been expanding on certain hybrids in some fields, particularly in eastern, Nebraska. However, I still haven’t seen it in our area and haven’t received any confirmations of it being found in our area at this time. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Nelson, Nelson Precision Agronomics).