How sweet it is

05/01/2008 02:00:00 AM
Jim Offner

More vigorous corn might be handy in spring seasons similar to this past one, which has been wetter than normal, Allen notes.

"We've had a lot of unusual rain, so conditions have been conducive to fungal diseases," he says.

Perryman agrees. "The blight pressure, which is a result of the cool, wet weather in recent weeks, has been pretty intense. But that will start tapering off as the weather dries up and it gets hotter," he says.

Beiriger says these types of growing seasons help researchers learn about the diseases. "If you go out and look at my field right now, you can tell which lines have some form of northern leaf blight in them because they're brown," he says. "You can select the greener plants and overall you'll have better northern leaf blight resistance. It is a complicated and long process, but years like this help us greatly. We've had an above-average spring for rain. We have had two events with greater than three inches."

Beiriger says he is seeing progress with corn's tolerance for diseases, adding that a lot of improvement is coming in the form of resisting root rot. He credits seed breeders for doing their share of work, too.

Perryman of Hundley Farms says there is always something new each year, adding that growers are always putting in trials and staying on top of the latest technology.

The season's biggest pests

Beiriger says fall armyworms and silk flies are the most troublesome pests this year.

"Fall armyworms start off when the plant comes out, and they can act as cut worms and cut the plant off," he says. "As the ear is formed, they'll get in or behind it and damage it. They affect basically every part of the plant."

When they are bad, controlling the problem may require 15 or more sprays, he says, defining this year as a "moderate" one.

The corn silk fly has a maggot that attacks the ear from the silk channel, Beiriger says, adding that the key to controlling silk flies is to scout for adult flies.

"If you find them, you spray heavily for them," he says.

Perryman says silk flies haven?t been overly problematic so far this year.

But, he adds, the year isn't over.

"You get more of that when you start getting into the later months, like June—that's very spotty," he says. "It's hot."

Growers should be mindful that culls also could attract silk flies, Perryman notes.

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