Corn disease declines in corn belt, spreads to new areas

Oct 10, 2013

Credit Peter Blanchard / Flickr

The dry conditions of the past two growing seasons may have frustrated many Missouri corn farmers, but it may have had at least one positive effect on their crop. A corn disease that peaked in 2011 has been on the wane.

Until recently, Goss’s Wilt was confined to eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. Then, beginning in 2008, it moved eastward, infecting farms across the corn belt. Iowa State University plant pathologist Alison Robertson says modern hybrid corn varieties may be to blame for the resurgence. 

"Because Goss’ Wilt wasn’t a widespread problem, the breeders didn’t pick up on that these hybrids were very susceptible," Robertson said.

She says there are resistant hybrids on the market now, but the disease remains a concern. Even as its occurrence in the traditional corn belt has diminished with the dry conditions, it’s spreading—into Louisiana for the first time this year. 

"This disease is still continuing to pop its head up at places where it shouldn’t be popping its head up, and so we need to whack the mole," Robertson said. 

Robertson says rotating corn with soybeans or alfalfa and then planting a resistant hybrid is a good recipe for preventing recurrence.