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Fusarium Ear Rot


Fusarium Ear Rot

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Fusarium Ear Rot
  • Scattered or groups of kernels are typically affected
  • Mold may be white, pink or salmon-colored
  • Infected kernels may turn tan or brown
  • "Starburst" pattern often associated with the disease (light-colored streaks radiating from top of kernels where silks were attached)

Fusarium Ear Rot Facts

  • Most common fungal disease on corn ears
  • Caused by Fusarium verticillioides (previously known as Fusarium moniliforme) and several other Fusarium species
  • Fungi survive on residue of corn and other plants, especially grasses
  • Infection can occur under a wide range of environmental conditions. Disease is more severe when weather is warm and dry
  • Disease enters ear primarily through wounds from hail or insect feeding
    • Insects damage husks and kernels and may also vector Fusarium spores
    • Ear rot severity is usually related to severity of European corn borer, western bean cutworm or corn earworm feeding damage
  • Airborne spores can germinate and grow down the silk channel to infect kernels

Disease Cycle

Fusarium ear rot disease cycle


Impact on Crop

  • Yield and grain quality are reduced
  • In severe infections, ears may be completely consumed by the fungus, leaving lightweight husks cemented to the
    kernels by mycelia
  • Fusarium verticillioides and Fusarium proliferatium produce fumonisins, the most commonly occurring mycotoxins
    in the Corn Belt
  • Fumonisins can be fatal to horses and pigs
  • Fumonisins can damage organs in other mammals and are carcinogenic
 In severe fusarium ear rot infections, corn ears may be completely consumed by the fungus.


Management of Fusarium Ear Rot

  • Choose hybrids with resistance
  • Fusarium scores for Pioneer hybrids range from 3 to 7 (9=resistant), indicating important differences between hybrids
  • If Fusarium ear rot has caused significant damage in the past, growers should consider planting only hybrids with a Fusarium ear rot rating of 5 or higher
  • Rotating out of corn for a year is beneficial
  • Tillage to bury or breakdown crop residue is helpful
  • Hybrids genetically engineered to resist insects may have lower levels of fumonisins
  • Pioneer® brand hybrids with the Herculex® I Insect Protection trait help reduce ear feeding from:
    • Corn borer, western bean cutworm, fall armyworm, corn earworm
Fusarium Ear Rot Comparison
Left:  Bt ears — no insect feeding or disease symptoms
Right: Non-Bt ears — insect feeding allowed entry of Fusarium fungus
with resulting symptoms

Harvest and Storage

  • Clean bins before storage
  • Harvest at 25% moisture and dry to 15% moisture or lower if storing grain into the following summer
  • Cool infected grain below 50 F as quickly after harvest as possible and store at 30 F
  • Clean grain before storing to remove infected kernels, cobs and fines
  • Store infected grain separately, if possible, to avoid putting whole bin at risk

Herculex® I     HX1 – Contains the Herculex® I Insect Protection gene which provides protection against European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, black cutworm, fall armyworm, western bean cutworm, lesser corn stalk borer, southern corn stalk borer, and sugarcane borer; and suppresses corn earworm.
Herculex® I Insect Protection technology by Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer Hi-Bred. Herculex® and the HX logo are registered trademarks of Dow AgroSciences LLC.