Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If I Were God

Most people if they could play God for a day would cure world hunger or end all war.  If I had the opportunity I would choose a different goal.

Gibberella ear rot, caused by the fusarium graminearum pathogen, more commonly known as ear mold and the vomitoxin it produces, is an ugly, unpredictable disease that has the ability to negatively impact the cash flow of corn growers in this part of Ontario.  Sometimes it is said this is only a problem for hog producers.  I disagree.  It is a problem for ALL producers because it lowers the quality of our grain and silage.  Yep, it affects silage too.

In my career I have faced serous outbreaks 4 times.  A suitable analogy, in my opinion, would be cancer in humans.  Despite many years of research and millions of dollars the corn plant is still susceptible to this disease. 

We do know that genetics play a role in the susceptibility of our corn crop to gibberella ear rot.  Every year there is a small amount of gibberella present, but most of it goes unnoticed.  This year is no exception.  I can find gibberella infection on susceptible hybrids.  Only in years like 2006, when a major outbreak occurs, does it get much attention.  Then the experts all emerge from their foxholes.  The bs hits the fan about which hybrid and which company has the biggest problem with gibberella. 
All seed corn companies have issues with gibberella.  Some companies are not smart enough to realize it or don't want to admit it.  Within Pioneer any discussion about corn hybrids will include the potential for gibb infection.

This time of year gives an opportunity to evaluate hybrids on your own farm and determine which have susceptibility to gibberella.  It only takes 5 minutes.  The following pictures taken three days ago reveal what to look for and this is NOT a Pioneer hybrid.

Husks that are pink in colour and tightly wrapped around the tip of the ear are slam dunk clues that this hybrid has susceptibilty to gibberella ear rot.  This hybrid should never be grown on large acreages in this part of Ontario.  It is too risky.

Most agronomy types would say this year has been too hot for gibberella to develop.  It is often associated with cooler, wetter growing seasons.  They don't understand the disease.

You can understand what risk you may be taking, just look for the clues.

I hate this stuff.  And if I could be God, gibberella would cease to exist.

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