The first is smut. Smut is a gray, moldy growth on corn ears that is believed to be linked to the poor pollination, dry weather and warm temperatures we had earlier this year.
The mature galls that you see on the corn may break open and leave a powdery residue on surrounding tissue and people. It is a fungus that can overwinter in crop residue and soil.
There are a few ways to manage smut. One option is to till in an effort to reduce the amount of debris that harbors the fungus. You can also promote proper corn fertilization and limit wounding of corn by equipment during the growing season.
Smut is a pain when walking in fields. However, it is important to remember it is non-toxic and can be grown to be consumed as a delicacy. Even though it is non-toxic, we encourage all farmers with lung ailments or mold allergies to take precaution when around it. The best way to take precaution is to wear mold-rated respiration masks.
The second thing farmers need to be on the lookout for is Aspergillus ear rot. It is a fungus that produces a mycotoxin (known as aflatoxin). It is important to know whether or not you have any Aspergillus ear rot in your fields because the mycotoxin it produces is deadly to livestock.
Aspergillus ear rot can be identified by looking for olive-green mold on corn ears. If you suspect you have Aspergillus ear rot in a field, then you need to obtain at least 10 ears from throughout the field. After you collect the ears, peel back the husks and look for the mold. Be aware that the fungal spores might disperse as soon as the husks are peeled back. If scouting the field indicates you have Aspergillus ear rot, then you need to let your crop insurance agent know so that they can take appropriate measures.
As you harvest corn that could potentially have Aspergillus ear rot, remember to take proper safety precautions. Those precautions would include wearing a respirator capable of filtering fine dust particles and changing clothes after handling grain.
If you get sick after handling grain, it is important to see a doctor and let him or her know that you were around potentially moldy grain.
For more information about Aspergillus ear rot and how to manage alfatoxin, contact your local Purdue Extension Office to receive a copy of the Purdue publication ID-451-W, "Managing Aspergillus Ear Rot and Aflatoxin."
As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at email@example.com.
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Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* Sept. 13 -- Ag Outlook Meeting, 8:30 a.m., Clay County Extension Office,
* Sept. 13 -- Clay County Ag Advisory Board, 6 p.m., Clay County Extension Office,
* Sept. 26 -- Clay County Extension Board Meeting, Clay County Extension Office,
* Sept. 27 -- Owen County Extension Board Meeting, Owen County Extension Office, and
* Oct. 4-6 -- State Master Gardener Conference, Hamilton County Fairgrounds. For more information, log on to http://188.8.131.52/2012-master-gardene....