Race T of southern corn leaf blight struck the U.S. corn belt in 1969 and 1970. It was quickly solved by the seed industry making a relatively easy change in cytoplasmic genetics. But a good thing about that epidemic was it caused the seed companies to enhance their disease resistance efforts by hiring corn pathologists. I was a beneficiary of that effort, starting with Cargill Seed Department in 1972. The major leaf blight problem being solved, I asked corn breeders for the most problematic corn disease. Stalk rot was the common answer. It occurred inconsistently across many hybrids and screening methods seemed inadequate. It was a frustrating disease from the corn breeder’s perspective.
I was definitely in a learning mode, educated as a botanist and mycologist but not an agronomist. I did a lot of literature review and visiting with more experienced university researchers concerning corn stalk rot. A group of public and private corn pathologists met annually for 1-2 days to discuss recent research and observations. There were about 25 people in the group at that time, lending the opportunity for presentations that were not really ready for journal publication but feedback from corn disease professionals. I presented my summary of stalk rot ideas to that group in February 1975, including bibliography of published stalk rot research. I don’t recall the precise feedback but I felt encouraged to proceed with experiments to test the photosynthetic stress-translocation balance concept of stalk rot.
The literature illustrates the difficulty in describing the interaction between the physiology of the corn plant and the fungi involved in stalk rot. It also shows the balance of field and lab research done by the researchers of that era, a characteristic that needs to be continued.
Attached is a pdf copy of the 1975 presentation that I gave to the corn disease group. A similar but larger group of corn pathologists continues to meet annually.
About Corn Journal
The purpose of this blog is to share perspectives of the biology of corn, its seed and diseases in a mix of technical and not so technical terms with all who are interested in this major crop. With more technical references to any of the topics easily available on the web with a search of key words, the blog will rarely cite references but will attempt to be accurate. Comments are welcome but will be screened before publishing. Comments and questions directed to the author by emails are encouraged.