I first was introduced to corn diseases in 1971, when asked to identify diseases on corn leaves gathered across the US, Race T of southern corn leaf blight was still a potential problem. Although my master’s degree in plant pathology from Kansas State University was helpful, my PhD at University of Tennessee emphasized botany and mycology (study of fungi). That disease resulted in seed corn companies deciding that they needed to add a plant pathologist to their research program. So, when asked, I told them that I was one. The withdrawal of T sterile cytoplasm from corn solved a significant disease problem at that time. Corn breeders for the company then asked if I could help solve the problem with corn stalk rot. A search of research literature showed that stalk rot had been studied by many in the 1960’s. Perhaps, the fact that this coincided with increased use of single crosses is significant because it made it clear that individual plants with near identical genetics did not show the same degree of stalk deterioration. Researchers studied cell death in stalk pith cells, reduced sugar levels in stalks were associated with stalk rot. Others showed that root rot generally preceded stalk rot. Although some fungi such as species of the genera Diplodia, Gibberella and Fusarium were obvious in rotted stalks, multiple other species of fungi were also present. I presented that literature in a summary to a group of corn pathology researchers in 1975 (a copy listed below).
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.