How to Recognize, Manage and Prevent Corn Smut on Your Corn Crop, Although Some People Think It Tastes Delicious!
The Good News and the Bad News
- Corn smut affects only corn. That is the good news! The bad news is that it resembles a tumor on an individual kernel and some people actually eat this stuff! It is sold in stores, eaten in restaurants and and is known in Mexido as huitlacoche!
- But, if you just simply want your corn on the cob to taste like corn, continue reading and learn how to avoid this fungus.
Recognizing Corn Smut
- If you see an ear of corn in the cornfield and you think it has begun to grow tumors, it probably has been infected with corn smut. The damage can appear on any part of the corn plant that is aboveground, but only after the corn ears and tassels have been formed. Most of these "galls" are very small, about the size of a pea, but others grow to be several inches wide.
- The kernels and the cob are replaced by the galls, which are sometimes greenish and sometimes blackish. The ears of corn that are infected become quite disfigured and to me, look anything but "tasty.".
- Some other names for corn smut include corn goiter, coon-soot and boil smut.
Conditions That Are Favorable for Corn Smut
- If your soil is high in nitrogen or if your corn plants have been injured in any way (insects, garden tools, weather, heat) the conditions become favorable for corn smut fungus. The spores are spread throughout the crop by watering, wind and fertilizer. If you are among the lucky growers, you might only have a few ears that are infected by this nasty-looking fungus. If you are not so lucky, you can kiss your whole crop goodbye.
- The spores of the corn smut are able to overwinter in soil, garden clippings and manure and are able to live several years, waiting for a corn host. These spores, where they germinate, resemble tumors or boils, and closely resemble the tumors and boils on humans. ("You really gonna eat that?")
Preventing Corn Smut
- There are many varieties of corn that are resistant to corn smut, but before you buy, be sure to check with a nursery to see if there are any varieties that are more successful in your growing zone. Don't be blindsided by smut!
- To prevent corn smut, keep your corn plants adequately watered - this fungus loves dry, hot weather. If you spot galls, get rid of them before they open and release the spores that can end up on other corn plants. DON'T put them in your compost pile!
- After you have harvested your corn crop, clean up all of the debris and discard it. Fungus can be transmitted in manure fertilizer, so don't use it.
- Crop rotation is very important when it comes to corn. Don't plant it in the same area year after year.
Management of Corn Smut
- Unfortunately, there are no chemical controls for common corn smut. If your crop is already infected, re-read the section above on prevention, so that you can work on next year's crop.
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