Diagrams to help you rate foliar disease on corn

Many in the agricultural community, as well as researchers annually rate corn for disease as a means to assess hybrid response, hybrid effectiveness, or potential disease level on field productivity.  It can be difficult to rain the eye to accurately measure disease on foliage, and differences in the type and size of the structure or lesion associated with the pathogen varies significantly.  The four links below will direct you to disease area diagrams we developed in order to help you obtain accurate disease severity estimates in your fields. The method you use to assess disease severity may differ depending on the overall objective. The diagrams below are cor grey leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight, common rust, and southern rust.  These can be printed, laminated, and taken to the field with you to assist your ratings.

SAD_CommonRust SAD_GreayLeafSpot SAD_NorthernLeafBlight SAD_SouthernRust


Southern rust in Illinois- it’s complicated

This week we started picking up Southern rust in the southern Illinois.  Thusfar, reports indicate that disease severity is low.  However, the recent hurricane remnant and warm forecasts may mean that we may see the disease progress somewhat in the coming days and weeks.

When people in Illinois hear the words southern rust, it brings back memories of a few years ago when the disease moved in and environmental conditions favored disease development for a prolonged period of time.  Many fields suffered losses as a result of the disease.  This year the situation is complicated and different from a few years ago.  First, we are dealing with extreme differences in planting dates throughout the state.  One field may have tasseled a week or two ago and the field across the road might just now be reaching V10.  Second, yield potential in late planted fields is likely to be substantially lower than typical, meaning that there is less yield to protect and less money to cover potential application costs.  Third, commodity prices, although they may have increased slightly in recent days, are low, making it hard to justify the cost of applying a fungicide unless necessary and the potential to recover costs is high.

 

Southern rust.  Image A. Sisson.

 

Common rust vs Southern rust on corn. Image C. Bradley.

Let’s take a minute and first go over southern rust, then move back into what factors you should consider before making a fungicide application to manage this disease in 2019.

Southern rust is caused by the obligate fungal pathogen Puccinia polysoraPuccinia polysora produces fuzzy, raised structures called pustules on leaves and stalks of corn.  Pustules contain thousands of small orange spores.  When you rub these pustules between your fingers, the spores may leave a dusty orange coat on your fingers, hence the reason it is called a “rust.”  Pustules of Southern rust are orange to light tan, and often small and circular.  Pustules are mostly found on the upper leaf surface, which can help distinguish it from the less damaging common rust.

Spores from pustules can be dispersed miles on air currents, allowing the disease to spread rapidly.  Under hot humid conditions, spores of the fungus can infect suceptible corn, and symptoms can be observed within 3-4 days.  Within 7-10 days, spores are produced and can be dispersed.  The cycle of spore-infect-spore can continue as long as conditions are conducive and corn plants are green.  Conditions that favor disease development include hot temperatures (morning low of 75°F and daytime high of 93°F) and at least 4 hr of consecutive leaf wetness.  Outside of these conditions disease progress can occur, but at a slower rate.  Our colleagues to the South state that Southern rust can continue chugging along at 110 degrees.  That’s pretty impressive.

 

Southern rust does not overwinter in Illinois and blows into the region from warmer regions.  In years where it develops to a significant degree early in southern regions, it can move into Illinois during critical stages in crop growth.  In general, we see the disease move in most years in late July or early August.  This means that in years when plantings are delayed, the disease can arrive on time but plants may be at greater risk for yield loss because the earlier  infections occur the more yield can be impacted.  Experience from our Southern colleagues indicates that stalk integrity isn’t likely to be affected unless you see significant infections during the vegetative stages of crop development.

Example lifecycle of Southern rust. Note that it blows in from warmer, southern regions.

Now that we are on the same page about this disease, what about management?  As I mentioned previously things this season are complicated.  Let’s start by considering management decisions.  Below is a table modeled after one produced by fellow plant pathologist and Jason Statham look-alike Travis Faske at the University of Arkansas, depicting the likelihood that a fungicide application for Southern rust will provide a benefit:

Growth Stage Southern rust present Forecast favors S rust (75-93F) min 4 hrs leaf wetness Benefit of fungicide?
Vegetative yes yes yes
VT/R1 yes yes yes
R3 yes yes yes
R4 yes yes Unlikely
R5 yes yes No
Maturity yes yes No

 

Experience from the South indicates that trying to hold off an application until VT/R1 if possible is going to give you the highest likelihood of coming out even or ahead of this disease.  If you apply during the vegetative stages, realize that that means that you might need to come back again and make a second application.  You now have likely doubled your application costs.

Now let’s consider some other aspects of controlling this disease in our late planted crops.  If you were unable to switch to a shorter day hybrid, and decide apply a fungicide for managing S. rust at say, R3, your plant will be protected from disease, and retain greenness later into the season.  Depending on your location in the state, this means you might need to consider frost, and what that means for your yield potential and crop harvestability.

Before making an application, consider these points and also run the numbers.  Remember that fungicides DO NOT INCREASE YIELD POTENTIAL.  They do not increase yield.  They protect potential yield by mitigating losses due to fungal disease.

That being said, you can calculate the amount of protected yield required to pay for a fungicide application by using the formula Yield protected (bu/A) = application cost ($/A) crop price ($/bu).  After calculating your required protected yield, you can then determine if potential yield, frost, and other factors will make it worthwhile to spray.

 

Continue to scout.  For updates on Southern rust and it’s presence in Illinois and surrounding states click here

 


Avoid the cosmic freakout

Today colleagues in Indiana reported tar spot presence in some of their research plots located in North West IN.  They found an extremely low number of stroma (less than 10) when assessing approximately 500 feet of plots.  When you see or read about the report keep a few things to keep in mind:

1) The amount detected was exceptionally low, and not close to the widespread severity we saw early last year.  For example, on  July 5th, 2018, we detected tar spot in DeKalb at 100% incidence (every plant had some) with an average of 6% severity at the ear leaf at VT.  Those were wet fields, closed canopies, and a history of moderate tar spot.

2) It will be hot and dry for the foreseeable future.  Tar spot likes moderate temperatures and persistent humid conditions.  In corn that is still in the early vegetative stages, the persistent levels of humidity the pathogen likely needs to sporulate, then transfer those spores to plants, germinate, and infect, might not be met.  Last year at this time our fields in DeKalb and Monmouth were at or approaching VT around this time.  This season we are at V6 and V7, respectfully.  There is not much canopy to retain moisture, especially when conditions 3 weeks ago were favorable for disease onset.

3) Continue to scout, but be aware that the majority of the chatter out there about tar spot being detected in the Midwest is based on misdiagnoses of insect frass.  Spraying poop with fungicide is not going to benefit your crop.  Click here for more information on that particular issue.  If you have any suspect samples, send them to the UI plant diagnostic clinic, send me images, and let us know the approximate location of the putative detection.  We are collecting samples as we did last season.

4) We have observed tar spot in Illinois every year since it was first detected.  This disease overwinters in the region, just like grey leaf spot, white mold in soybeans, and Fusarium head blight in small grains.  Last year was the first time that the disease was severe enough to cause yield loss.  Detecting it is not uncommon.  When it arrives and the amount of symptoms expressed during critical periods of grain fill is what is most important.  Last year was the perfect storm of susceptible crop, environment conducive to disease for a prolonged period of time, and infection during a period critical for yield.  We will observe it this season, the question is when, and how severe and widespread it will be.

5) Fields at highest risk for tar spot will be no till, corn after corn fields experiencing moderate temperatures and persistent humid conditions, and had tar spot last season.  Our collaborative research team has preliminary data indicating that any infested residue on the surface of fields can produce viable spores.  Tillage may potentially reduce the overall number of spores available for local infection of a particular field by reducing the amount of surface residue on the field, but there is no reason to expect the act of tillage alone to impact survival and viability of spores produced on the residue remaining on the field surface.  Planting into fields that were soybean last year may reduce initial disease onset.  This disease isn’t a rust.  Keep in mind, until we have hard data these are simply assumptions based on experience and similar pathosystems.

6) It is evident that there is a lot that is not understood about this pathosystem and in particular, pathogen biology and ecology.  Our tar spot coalition, which consists of a group of pathologists and breeders from the Midwest and Florida, is working on coordinated trials and collaborative projects to learn as much as possible about this disease in an effective, efficient manner.  We are working hard to help our producers minimize potential losses due to this disease.

In sum, keep scouting, don’t freak out, and stay hydrated- it’s going to get hot out there!

On a side note, I’d be more concerned about the recent report or Southern rust from Southeast Missouri, especially for our #corn growers in the southern portion of the state.  That disease blows around, and with hot temperatures and a predicted hurricane remnant moving in, it could move a bit, especially in some of these late plated corn fields.


Setting the record straight on Tar Spot

Remember that game of telephone we played as kids?  One person says something in to the ear of another and after passing through 10 people or so the starting message, “I like peanut butter” ends up as, “John licks turtles.”  Sometimes that can happen with information pertaining to plant diseases.  Lately there have been some interesting things said about tar spot on corn in the community.  To help clarify, and set the record straight, I published an article on my blog, which can be accessed here.


Physoderma reports on the increase in the region

Physoderma brown spot and node rot is a disease that has been increasing in incidence in the Midwest over the past 5-10 years.  We observed this disease frequently during scouting trips throughout the state conducted in late July.  Recently, we have been receiving more reports of this disease and questions pertaining to it’s impact on the crop and management.  I recently wrote an article on this disease and management recommendations on the Illinois Field Crop Disease Blog.  Click HERE to access the article.

 

Scout those fields!