Gibberella Ear Rot


Gibberella stalk rot, instigated by the fungus Fusarium graminearum or Gibberella zeae, can trigger substantial yield losses, with the severity of the damage hinging on the stage of crop development at the time of infection.

How Does Gibberella Stalk Rot Impact Corn Plants?

Gibberella stalk rot affects various parts of corn plants, significantly impacting their:

  • Stalks: The most immediate and visible impact is on the stalks, which weaken and become prone to breakage due to pith degradation. This can trigger significant yield losses due to lodging and ear drop.

  • Ears: The disease can also affect the ears, leading to premature ear drop. In severe cases, the fungus can generate mycotoxins that contaminate the grain, rendering it unfit for consumption.

  • Roots: The fungus can also invade the roots, causing root rot. This can hinder the plant's ability to absorb water and nutrients, further impacting yield and quality.

How to Identify Gibberella Stalk Rot

Gibberella stalk rot manifests as a reddish-pink discoloration of the stalk, especially at the nodes. The pith discolors and disintegrates, often leaving a hollow stalk. This degradation can lead to stalk lodging, further complicating harvest.

Several symptomatic signs aid in identifying Gibberella stalk rot, including:

  • Premature Plant Death: Infected plants may die prematurely, often with the leaves retaining their green color.

  • Stalk Fragility: The stalks of infected plants may break or bend easily due to the pith's degradation.

  • Ear Drop: Ears may fall prematurely as the shank and stalk tissues disintegrate.

To affirm the presence of Gibberella stalk rot, perform a simple "push" or "pinch" test. Push the plants sideways about 30 degrees. If the stalks break or bend, it may signify stalk rot. Similarly, pinch the lower internodes of the stalk. If they easily compress, it may indicate stalk rot.

Geographic Impact of Gibberella Stalk Rot

Gibberella stalk rot thrives in warm and humid conditions, particularly in the midwestern and eastern United States. However, it can strike anywhere corn is cultivated.

Timing of Gibberella Stalk Rot

Gibberella stalk rot typically surfaces later in the growing season, often post-tasseling. However, infection can strike earlier in the season, especially under continuous corn and conservation tillage practices.

How to Manage Gibberella Stalk Rot in Corn

Gibberella stalk rot is the same pathogen that causes Gibberella ear rot in corn. Fungicides haven't shown consistent results in reducing stalk rot or mycotoxin accumulation.

Instead, farmers can focus on cultural practices that may help reduce the risk of disease. This includes practices such as crop rotation, where corn is not planted in the same field year after year, as this can help break the disease cycle.

Additionally, farmers can also consider planting corn hybrids that have been bred for resistance to Gibberella stalk rot. These hybrids are specifically developed to have increased tolerance to the disease, which can help minimize its impact on the crop.


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This content was generated with the assistance of Norm℠, FBN’s artificial intelligence (AI) Ag Advisor, based on a dataset of information containing general industry best practices and research. The AI model did not use specific external sources to generate this content. Our process involves using AI to aid human subject matter experts with the initial drafting and/or refinement of content.

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