aspergillus ear mold Charles Woloshuk, Purdue Botany and Plant Pathology
RARE SIGHT THIS YEAR: The olive-green color of aspergillus ear mold has been scarce in fields this year. Often triggered by drought, it can produce aflatoxin.

Ear rot not a major problem this fall

Corn Illustrated: Plant pathologists have developed a mobile app that will make scouting for ear rots easier next year.

So far Charles Woloshuk’s phone hasn’t rung off the hook this year, and he’s happy his phone has been quiet. If ear rots were a major problem in Indiana, he is one of the first people who would get calls to help identify the rots and determine whether mycotoxins were an issue.

Woloshuk is a Purdue University Extension plant pathologist. His specialty is understanding ear rots and the effects of the mycotoxins each one produces.

“We had excellent weather for drydown of the corn crop early, and we missed rains from the hurricanes,” he says. “Those were likely major factors in explaining why we haven’t heard much about ear rots in Indiana this fall.”

That doesn’t mean there weren’t any ears affected by one or more of the ear rots. But cool weather and other conditions early didn’t favor spread of ear rots, so even if some ears in a field were infected, it didn’t reach widespread levels. Woloshuk is not aware of any major problems with ear rots or mycotoxins in Indiana.

That said, harvest isn’t completely over. Late rains mean there are still some fields to harvest. However, Woloshuk is hoping cool weather this time of year will slow down any mold development in late-harvested corn.

The only area of the country with major problems this year was Texas, Woloshuk says. Weather conditions there set up the crop for fusarium ear rot. Fusarium produces fomensin, which can be lethal for horses in high enough quantities.

Mobile app
Just because ear rots weren’t widespread this year doesn’t mean they won’t be next year. A group of researchers Woloshuk works with has just released an Android version of a free cellphone app that will make scouting easier the next time around. The Apple version is expected to be released soon.

“What the app does is give you access to the same information that is on our website,” Woloshuk says. “It will let you take the information to the field, so you can make identification of ear rots and molds right in the field. Sometimes we may not scout enough, but this should make it easier to do so.”

You can find more information at cornmycotoxins.com.

The website and the app are products of the Integrated Management Strategies for Aspergillus and Fusarium Ear Rots of Corn project established in 2012. Participants include the University of Arkansas (a leader in developing the app), Michigan State University, Purdue, North Carolina State University and Texas A&M University, with funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The original goal was to coordinate and promote a research and Extension collaboration to give farmers new tools for managing ear rots and mycotoxins. Both the website and the app help meet that goal, Woloshuk says.

Download the Android version of the cellphone app now from cornmycotoxins.com.

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