Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“Farming is a complicated pursuit that involves many choices,” said Larry Hoffman, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s (NCGA) Corn Productivity & Quality Action Team. “Making the right choice at the right time can have a huge effect on profitability. This is especially true when it comes to identifying the dozens of diseases that can harm healthy corn plants, yields and grain quality.”
Corn has effective genetic resistance to many important diseases, said Pete Snyder, president and chief executive officer of NAGC. However, numerous challenges remain in identifying corn diseases in timely fashion. NAGC is targeting a couple of key diseases, Goss’s Wilt and Xanthomonas, in their first disease assays, or tests now available to corn farmers, agronomists and crop consultants.
“A key part of our mission at the National Agricultural Genotyping Center is to translate scientific discoveries into solutions for farmers and production agriculture,” Snyder said. “This is another important step in that regard. The new assays we have developed will provide proper identification in weeks rather than months and cut costs substantially.”
The NAGC, Fargo, North Dakota, U.S., is a non-profit initiative founded by the NCGA and Los Alamos National Laboratory, that provides research and testing services to both public and private researchers. The center translates scientific discoveries into solutions for production agriculture, food safety, functional foods and bioenergy.
The NCGA said cost savings from the actual testing are as much as 75% less with a move from single sample testing to utilizing 96 sample trays. The NAGC is working with farmers via crop consultants and agronomists to streamline the process of collecting samples and ramping up the assay process.
Goss’s wilt is a bacterial disease that may cause systemic infection and wilting of corn plants, as well as severe leaf blighting. Under the right conditions the disease can cause devastating damage with grain yield losses approaching 50%. Xanthomonas, another bacterial disease, is being targeted because it is often confused with Gray Leaf Spot leading to ineffective fungicide treatments and loss of income for farmers.
“It can cost $40 an acre to treat Gray Leaf Spot, but those treatments are ineffective against Xanthomonas,” Hoffman said. “And it’s not just lost profit but lost opportunity. Once identified we can deal with Xanthomonas through management practices such as tillage and crop rotation.”
Testing is largely done through samples of the effected plant leaf tissue. However, soil samples can be assayed by the NAGC early in the growing season to identify the presence of Xanthomonas.