Fusarium stalk rot, a fungal disease that primarily targets corn stalks but can also affect roots, ears and leaves, is triggered by several species of the Fusarium genus, particularly Fusarium verticillioides and Fusarium subglutinans.

Fusarium stalk rot can cause substantial yield losses due to premature plant death, reduced grain fill, and lodging, which can substantially complicate harvest. In severe instances, the disease can result in total crop failure.

How Does Fusarium Stalk Rot Impact Corn Plants?

  • Stalks: The disease primarily weakens the stalks, causing them to become brittle. This can lead to lodging, making the plants more susceptible to further damage from wind and rain.

  • Leaves: The leaves of infected plants may show wilting and discoloration. This can decrease photosynthesis, leading to reduced grain fill and lower yields.

  • Ears and Kernels: In some instances, the disease can also infect the ears and kernels, leading to reduced grain quality. Infected kernels may display a pinkish to reddish discoloration, and may contain mycotoxins that can be harmful if consumed.

  • Roots: The roots of infected plants may also be affected, leading to reduced water and nutrient uptake.

How to Identify Fusarium Stalk Rot

Fusarium stalk rot usually appears as a reddish to pinkish discoloration in the pith. As the disease advances, the pith becomes shredded, assuming a "stringy" appearance. In severe cases, the pith may disintegrate entirely, leaving only the vascular bundles.

The initial visible symptom of Fusarium stalk rot is typically wilting, followed by the plant's premature death. The leaves may also show a grayish to reddish discoloration. Another common symptom is stalk breakage or lodging, especially during periods of high wind or heavy rain.

To verify Fusarium stalk rot presence, perform a simple "push" or "pinch" test. If the stalk can be easily crushed by pinching, or if the plant bends or breaks when pushed at an angle, it is likely infected with Fusarium stalk rot.

Geographic Impact of Fusarium Stalk Rot

Fusarium stalk rot can occur in any region where corn is grown. However, it is more prevalent in warm, humid climates, and in fields with a history of the disease.

Timing of Fusarium Stalk Rot

The disease typically emerges in the mid to late growing season, especially during periods of high temperature and humidity.

How to Manage Fusarium Stalk Rot

There are several ways farmers can protect their plants to improve profitability. Start by choosing corn hybrids with higher stalk integrity and standability ratings. Then, ensure sufficient crop nutrition with fertilizers like Nourish Vitals™ or Inhabit N™

Fungicides aren't effective against Fusarium stalk rot itself, but they can help protect overall plant health. Fungicide applications near tassel timing – or earlier if disease and environmental threats warrant – can help protect stalk integrity. 

In particular, managing foliar diseases can help protect stalk integrity and lessen plant stress that favors the development of stalk rot. Farmers can manage foliar diseases with a broad-spectrum fungicide like GCS Azoxyprop or Willowood Teb 3.6SC

European corn borers are a known stalk rot disease vector. They can wound plant tissue, allowing fungal pathogens to enter the plant and carry the disease from plant to plant. Manage European corn borers with insecticides like Willowood Lambda-Cy 1EC**, Asana XL**, and GCS Bifenthrin 2EC**.

Overall, using a hybrid product selection and keeping the crop as healthy as possible with a comprehensive crop protection program are the best defenses against Fusarium stalk rot.

Willowood Teb 3.6SC tote 800x800


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200Vortex® Seed Treatment FungicideWarden® CerealsWarden® Cereals 360Warden® Cereals HRWarden® Cereals IIWarden® Cereals WRWarden® Cereals WRIIWarden® CXWarden® CX IIWarden® RTA®Willowood Teb 3.6SCZeroTol® 2.0ZeroTol® HC