Corn and Wheat Disease Update – June 5, 2009

Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist;

No need for me to tell you how bad the weather has been so far for corn. Stands are still being reduced by excessively wet soils and the Pythium and Fusarium damping-off that is occurring as a result of the wet soils. Fungicide treated seed, good drainage and some warm temperatures would help considerably in getting the plants out of the ground and growing.

Fusarium head blight or scab is being seen in some fields in Kent and Sussex counties. The occurrence and severity so far has been variable but, in general, I think we dodged a bullet this time. Our wheat for the most part was already in flower before the most favorable weather came for scab (Figure 1).

fusarium head blight 

Figure 1. Fusarium head blight or scab.

Take-all was diagnosed this week as well from two fields. Take-all is characterized by patches in the field that can vary in size but the wheat is generally stunted and the heads bleach out prematurely. Infected plants can be easily pulled out of the ground due to the extensive root rot that occurs. The other symptom is the dark streaking at the base of the stem (lowest node under the leaf sheaths), see Figure 2. Take-all can be controlled by rotating out of wheat for a year. However planting wheat followed by double crop soybeans followed by wheat is not an effective rotation for take-all control. Manganese levels also interact with take-all. Be sure that soil levels of manganese are adequate for the crop and check pH so that the managanese is available. High pH makes manganese unavailable.


Figure 2. Take-all symptoms on the lower nodes. Note lack of roots as well.

Tan spot (Figure 3) has been present for almost three weeks in wheat. This foliar disease can look like Septoria (Stagnospora) leaf and glume blotch. It is caused by the fungus Pyrenophora tritici-repentis.


Figure 3. Tan spot symptoms on wheat.

It has been widespread on Delmarva this season because of the amount of rainfall that we have had. It is too late for any control, but this disease is favored by wet, warm weather. Most of the spots are in the lower canopy and may reach the flag leaf before the plants begin to dry down. Applications of foliar fungicides at heading or earlier have been providing good control of this disease. At present most of the infection is in the lower canopy and the effect on yield should be minimal if the disease does not move up to the flag leaf or the leaf below the flag leaf.