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Sweet corn smut

News from the Hastings Triage Lab: Corn Smut

Corn smut discovered on sweet corn variety trial!

Smuts, caused by Basidiomycetes (second largest phylum of fungi), include about ~1,200 species of fungi. This includes the pathogen Ustilago maydis, which causes the common smut. Smuts can also affect sugarcane and onions, and can result in a yield reduction, but rarely exceed 2% of losses. However! There is a silver lining to this menace – it’s actually a delicacy in Central America called “huitlacoche.” With that said, I could not find anyone at the center willing to give it a try, even with the assistance of a certified chef.

Corn - common smut

Corn – common smut

If this disease is found in your field, the spores can overwinter in the soil for years. Infections take place locally, not systemically, which is why the galling can be irregular within an ear. Any environmental condition that results in poor pollination will increase the likelihood of this disease in corn. Resistant hybrids, sanitation and crop rotation will be the ideal management plan.

Contact Dr. Marcio Resende and Dr. Wendy Mussoline for details about the Fall 2020 sweet corn variety trial.

References: Munkvold & White, Compendium of Corn Diseases, 4th Edt. Agrios, Plant Pathology, 5th Edt.

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