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Agronomy Update

Identifying Corn Ear Molds In Your Fields

Published on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Conditions throughout many parts of Wisconsin and northern Illinois have been favorable for the development of corn ear molds. Ear molds are of particular concern because of the adverse effects they can have on grain storage. They also result in the development of mycotoxins, which can have detrimental effects on feed value and animal health. 

Commonly Found Ear Molds

When evaluating ear molds, it is very important to understand and identify which infections have developed. By recognizing which strains are present, we will be able to determine the proper handling process and what the potential feed risk of the crop is. Below is a breakdown of the most common ear molds found throughout our region. 

Diplodia Ear Rot: The initial infection appears at the base of the ear with a white colored fungus. As the disease progresses, the mold and kernels turn grayish brown and may rot the entire ear. Diplodia is not associated with any mycotoxins.

Fusarium Ear Rot: This is the most common of all the ear molds. A white to light pink colored fungus will appear on scattered kernels, especially those damaged by insects. Fusarium can cause the mycotoxin, fumonisins.

Gibberella Ear Rot: This infection is identifiable by the red to pink color of the mold. This ear mold begins at the tip of the ear, so it can progress to eventually rot the entire ear. Giberella can produce the mycotoxins, vomitoxin and zearalenone.

Aspergillus Ear Rot: This ear mold forms a light powdery growth that is yellow to green in color. It typically starts at the end of the ear in areas damaged by insects. Aspergillus can produce aflatoxin that is harmful to both humans and livestock.

Harvest, Storage and Handling

Ear rots can continue to progress in fields until temperatures drop below 40 degrees and kernel moisture drops below 15 percent. Corn that is intended to be stored for a long period of time should be dried to below 15 percent within 48 hours of being harvested. This will significantly reduce the chance of molds spreading while in storage. Since high moisture corn will head during storage and cause the toxins to spread, any high moisture shell corn used for feed should be kept away from corn that shows signs of ear molds.

Be sure to scout your fields prior to harvest to determine if ear molds are present and which types. Be prepared to test corn that is intended for feed for the presence of mycotxins and understand the risk to both humans and animals. If you have questions, please reach out to your local dealer, seed advisor, or agronomist.


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Jon Skinner

Jon Skinner

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