Scout for ear and stalk rots in corn

Andrew Kness, Agriculture Agent
University of Maryland Extension, Harford County

stalk and ear rot of corn
Stalk rot (left) and ear rot (right) of corn.

With corn harvest underway across much of the state, growers may be encountering ear rots and stalk rots in affected fields. The degree of severity is dependent on a variety of factors, so it is wise to scout fields prior to harvesting in order to identify problematic fields and give those harvest priority.

Several different pathogens can cause ear rots in Maryland; the main contenders are listed in the table below. Although they typically do not affect yield, they can cause grain quality issues through the production of mycotoxins. Furthermore, if infected grain is not dried quickly or to a low enough moisture content, infection can spread, even when in the bin. Therefore, it is important to scout and identify fields that are infected with ear rots and harvest those first. It is better to pay a few cents in propane to dry the wet grain than to wait and risk infection levels getting worse, and the potential for elevated mycotoxin concentration in the grain. Quickly dry infected grain to below 15% for short-term storage and to below 13% for long term storage. It is important to note that not all ear rotting fungi produce mycotoxins, so I would recommend sending samples to a lab (the UMD Plant Diagnostic Clinic is a free service) to get proper identification so that you know the species in question and thus if mycotoxin contamination is a concern.

Table 1. Common ear rots of corn.

Disease Pathogen Symptoms Mycotoxin
Fusarium ear rot Fusarium verticillioides “Starburst” kernels, white kernels, infected kernels may be scattered on ear Fumosin
Gibberella ear rot Fusarium graminearum Ear covered in white mat often with pink hue, infection starts at tip and can progress to butt end of ear Vomitoxin (DON)
Diplodia ear rot Stenocarpella maydis and S. macrospora White fungal mat on ear, may cover the entire ear None
Penicillium ear rot Several Penicillium species Blue-grey spores on kernels developing on damaged ears (hail, deer feeding, insects, birds, etc.), may infect the germ of the kernel Some species may produce mycotoxins
Trichoderma ear rot Trichoderma viride Green spores in between kernels None
Aspergillus ear rot Aspergillus flavus Olive green spores on ear, usually starting at tip, associated with damaged ears (feeding from insects, deer, birds, etc) Aflatoxin 

Stalk rots are also a harvest concern. Like ear rots, stalk rots are also caused by many different pathogens, several of which are listed in the table below. No one factor causes stalk rots; they are rather the end result of a host of factors that contribute to a net deficit in plant carbohydrates needed for grain fill. The grain fill process is a major carbohydrate sink for the plant. As the plant produces carbohydrates through photosynthesis, it allocates almost all of it’s carbohydrate production to filling the kernels. A healthy plant will have sufficient leaf area to maximize photosynthesis and therefore produce enough carbohydrates to fill the grain. However, when photosynthetic leaf area is compromised, the plant cannot make enough food to fill the kernels. So in order to compensate for the deficit, the plant will cannibalize carbohydrates from existing tissues. The first tissues to go are the stalks, which are then easily compromised by stalk-rotting pathogens.

Table 2. Common stalk rots of corn.

Disease Pathogen
Anthracnose stalk rot Colletotrichum graminicola
Diplodia stalk rot Stenocarpella maydis
Charcoal rot Macrophpmina phaseolina
Gibberella stalk rot Fusarium graminearum
Fusarium stalk rot Multiple Fusarium species

Any factor that reduces leaf area or reduces photosynthesis after pollination will predispose plants to stalk rots. These include reduced leaf area through insect feeding, lesions from foliar diseases, or mechanical damage (such as hail). Other factors include inadequate fertility, water stress, and excessive plant populations. Another significant factor is hybrid genetics; both resistance ratings to stalk rotting pathogens as well as ear and kernel size. High-yielding, large kernel hybrids are more susceptible to stalk rots if they are not kept healthy through grain fill.

Scout fields for stalk rots as early as black layer. The “pinch test” is one way to scout for stalk rots. Pinch the stalk in between the nodes at one of the lower two nodes. You should not be able to pinch healthy stalks but rotted stalks will fairly easily pinch. Do this at random to assess the field. Alternatively, you can do a “push test”, which involves pushing the corn stalks approximately 30 degrees from horizontal (8 inches laterally) at a height of about eye level. Healthy stalks will return to vertical while infected plants will not. If more than 10% of plants tested exhibit stalk rot symptoms, you may want to harvest as soon as possible or risk a not-so-fun harvest of lodged corn.

September 2020 WASDE Summary

Dale Johnson, Farm Management Specialist
University of Maryland

Information from USDA WASDE report

Attached is the summary for the September 11 WASDE.


Harvested acres estimate was adjusted down 0.5 million acres and yield estimates were adjusted down 3.3 bushels to 178.5 bushels per acre. Beginning stocks were adjusted up slightly but the net effect in total supply was a decrease of 353 million bushels. Domestic demand estimate was decreased by 200 million bushels but exports were increased by 100 million bushels so the net effect in demand total was a decrease of 100 million bushel. So the ending stock estimates were down by 253 million bushel decreasing the stocks to use ratio from 18.7% to 17.1%. This anticipated decrease in ending stocks has been factored into the market as the December futures price increased this past month from $3.27 on August 12 (last WASDE) to $3.70 on September 11.

Yield estimates for the 2020/21 crop year were adjusted down from 53.3 bushels per acre estimated in August to 51.9 bushels per acre current estimate. Beginning stocks were also adjusted down by 35 million bushel. These two changes resulted in a decrease of 152 million bushel in estimated 2020/21 supply. On the demand side, the only change was a decrease of 2 million bushel in residual. The resulting estimate of ending stocks was decreased by 150 million bushels decreasing the Ending stocks to use ratio from 13.7% from 10.4%. Just like corn, soybean futures market prices (November) have spiked during the past month from $8.83 per bushel on August 12 to $9.93 on September 11.

There were no changes in the wheat supply and demand estimates. However, wheat futures prices (September) have followed corn and soybean prices and increased from $4.91 per bushel on August 11 to $5.35 on September 11.

USDA Reminds Farmers of September 30 Deadline to Update Safety-Net Program Crop Yields

USDA FSA press release

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds farm owners that they have a one-time opportunity to update Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program yields for covered commodities on the farm. The deadline is September 30, 2020, to update yields, which are used to calculate the PLC payments for 2020 through 2023. Additionally, producers who elected Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) should also consider updating their yields.

“The last time farmers could update yields for these important safety-net programs was in 2014,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “It is the farm owner’s choice whether to update or keep existing yields. So, if you rent, you’ll need to communicate with your landlord who will be the one to sign off on the yield updates.”

Updating yields requires the signature of one owner on a farm and not all owners. If a yield update is not made, no action is required to maintain the existing base crop yield on file with FSA.

For program payments, updated yields will apply beginning with the 2020 crop year which, should payments trigger, will be paid out in October of 2021.

Determining Yield Updates

The updated yield will be equal to 90% of the average yield per planted acre in crop years 2013-2017. That excludes any year where the applicable covered commodity was not planted and is subject to the ratio obtained by dividing the 2008-2012 average national yield by the 2013-2017 average national yield for the covered commodity.

The chart below provides the ratio obtained by this calculation.

Covered Commodities National Yield Factor
Barley 0.9437
Canola 0.9643
Chickpeas, Large 1.0000
Chickpeas, Small 0.9760
Corn 0.9000
Crambe 1.0000
Flaxseed 1.0000
Grain Sorghum 0.9077
Lentils 1.0000
Mustard Seed 0.9460
Oats 0.9524
Peanuts 0.9273
Peas, Dry 0.9988
Rapeseed 1.0000
Rice, Long 0.9330
Rice, Medium 0.9887
Rice, Temp Japonica 0.9591
Safflower 1.0000
Seed Cotton 0.9000
Sesame Seed 0.9673
Soybeans 0.9000
Sunflower Seed 0.9396
Wheat 0.9545

If the reported yield in any year is less than 75 percent of the 2013-2017 average county yield, the yield will be substituted with 75 percent of the county average yield.

More information

PLC yields may be updated on a covered commodity-by-covered commodity basis by submitting FSA form CCC-867 to include a farm owner’s signature.

For more information, reference resources, and decision tools, visit Contact your local FSA county office for assistance at

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Agritourism Webinar: Planning and Operating During COVID-19

Agritourism: Planning and Operating During COVID-19 is a webinar scheduled for September 10th from 1-3:30 p.m., and hosted by Maryland Farm Bureau. Presentations include:

  • 1:00-1:45. Operating Your Agritourism Operation in Accordance with State and Local Law, Sarah Everhart, Agriculture Law Education Initiative
  • 1:45-2:30. Pivoting Your Agritourism Activities and Preparing for the Fall and Holiday Seasons, Ginger Myers, Marketing Specialist, University of Maryland Extension
  • 2:30. Break
  • 2:45-3:30. Agritourism and Legal Risk Management, Matt Ludwig, Nationwide

This webinar is free, but registration is required. Visit to register.


Early Fall Insect Scouting Guide and Tips

Emily Zobel, Agriculture Agent Associate
University of Maryland Extension, Dorchester County

Soybean: Keep scouting for stink bug, corn earworm, and leaf defoliators. Defoliation thresholds for R-stage soybean is 15-20% with defoliators present; however once the field has reached the R6 stage, defoliation thresholds can be relaxed. Bean leaf beetles may be found in fields but economic damage is rare in our area. Stink bugs will often aggregate in along fields edges, so make sure to check the middle of the field as well to see if the whole field needs to be treat or if you can just spot treat the edges. NC State Extension Stink Bug Economic Threshold Calculator can be used to help decide if it worth treating based on row with and bean type ( As the month progress and fields get closer to harvest, sample stems in any field that have a history of Dectes stem borer issues. If your field has a large stem infestation, prioritize that field for as timely a harvest as possible to reduce loss due to lodging.

Sorghum: As fields reached the hard dough stages they are less likely to have sugarcane aphids. However, it worth keeping an eye out for honeydew, which can impended harvest, and aphids in any fields that were treated with an insecticide earlier this year and late fields that are younger than soft dough.


Webinar Series: How To Write a Nutrient Management Plan

Multi-session series, October 5-9, 2020

COURSE DESCRIPTION Participants will learn how to write a nutrient management plan from beginning to end and how to use NuMan Pro nutrient management planning software. Principles will be discussed via live webinar on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Video guidance for NuMan Pro activities will be available and online “office hours” will occur on Tuesday and Thursday to guide participants through NuMan Pro activities.

COURSE CREDITS Newly (less than one year since certification) certified nutrient management consultants will receive 6 continuing education credits with satisfactory course completion, which includes participation in webinars and completion of plan development. A certificate of completion will be issued to participants who complete the requirements.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND All are welcome; however, the material will be geared toward Certified Nutrient Management Consultants.


  • October 5, 2020 1:00-3:00 pm. Lecture/Discussion.
  • October 6, 2020 1:00-3:00 pm. Office hours (optional attendance), Participants expected to complete NuMan activities assigned on Monday at any time during this day.
  • October 7, 2020 1:00-3:00 pm. Lecture/Discussion.
  • October 8, 2020 1:00-3:00 pm. Office hours (optional attendance), Participants expected to complete NuMan activities assigned on Wednesday at any time during this day.
  • October 9, 2020 1:00-3:00 pm. Lecture/Discussion; go over resources and expectations for plan development portion of course.
  • Plan development: Participants will have two weeks to develop a complete Nutrient Management Plan using provided data. Specialists will review and provide individual feedback within a week of submission.

REGISTRATION 1) Registration ( is required. 2) There is no cost for this course, but 3) the latest version of NuMan software will be needed on your desktop/laptop before the start of the course. NuMan licenses are $75. Contact Emileigh Lucas at if you have any questions. Contact David Ruppert at if the $75 NuMan software license is a hardship.

ACCESSIBILITY CONSIDERATIONS Participants must have access to a stable internet connection, be able to connect to Zoom, WebEx or similar, have access to NuMan Pro 5.0 software, and be able to access Google Drive (for course materials and participant folders). Contact Emileigh Lucas at if you have any concerns about accessing the course and we will do our best to accommodate you.


Maximizing Potential of Winter Forages

Amanda Grev, Pasture and Forage Specialist
University of Maryland Extension

The time for silage harvest is either here or soon to be here, which means the subsequent planting of winter forages is quickly approaching and now is the time to be thinking ahead on plans for winter forage plantings. With proper fertilization and management, winter forages can be a high yielding forage crop with as much as 17-20% crude protein and 180+ relative forage quality while also providing environmental benefits in the form of nutrient retention and soil erosion control.

Regardless of your choice of species, there are several steps you can take to boost production and achieve maximum success with these winter forages. One of the biggest things you can do to maximize the benefits of winter forages and increase yield potential the following spring is to use an earlier planting date. The ideal time to plant is typically 10 days to two weeks ahead of the recommended wheat for grain planting date for your region. By planting winter forages in this earlier timeframe, the plants have more time to generate tillers during the fall. When it comes to forage production, more tillers equals greater forage yield. Replicated trials in New York have reported 9 to 11 tillers per seed for earlier plantings of triticale compared to 2 to 5 tillers per seed for later plantings. As a result, winter triticale planted around mid-September produced 25-30% greater dry matter yield compared to winter triticale planted in early October. This earlier planting date also resulted in an earlier harvest the following spring, with triticale planted in September being ready to harvest a week earlier than that planted in October.

Planting winter forages earlier also allows you to better capitalize on any remaining nitrogen left in the soil from the previous crop. When manure is applied to corn in the spring, it not only releases nitrate during the growing season but it will continue to release it after corn silage harvest. Earlier-planted winter forages are able to capture this nitrogen and use it to produce more tillers that will increase yield potential the following spring. Research out of Cornell showed that triticale nitrogen uptake averaged 62 pounds of nitrogen per acre for triticale planted before September 20th compared to 19 pounds of nitrogen per acre when planted after September 20th. For every ton of triticale dry matter biomass that was produced in the fall, approximately 70 pounds of nitrogen was taken up. In other words, more dry matter produced in the fall meant more nitrogen was stored and held over until the following spring. The bottom line is by planting on time, a considerable amount of nitrogen can be taken up and stored in the crop that would otherwise likely be lost or leached away.

Other added benefits stemming from additional fall biomass include greater protection of the crown from cold weather due to the additional top growth, as well as greater root growth which can reduce injury potential from winter heaving. And finally, early planting also results in a rapidly growing crop that can better outcompete weeds and will likely lessen the need for herbicides.

If early planting is not feasible due to the corn coming off later or for another reason, planting a winter forage at a later date can still provide economical yields of high quality forage and will still serve to protect the soil from erosion and improve soil health and structure by having living roots in the soil throughout the winter. That being said, if you are planting later, don’t try to make up for lost yield by putting down more seed. Research has shown that there is rarely an advantage to this, even with a later planting date. Triticale planted in New York the third week of October at seeding rates increasing from 100 to 200 pounds of seed per acre showed no significant yield differences the following spring. Instead of spending the money on extra seed, consider spending it on having a 3-way fungicide seed treatment applied to the seed. Field trials have shown a 15% increase in yield for treated seed compared to untreated seed when planted at an earlier or on-time planting date, and a 28% increase in yield for treated seed when planted at a later planting date.

Additionally, although seed planting depth is always a critical factor in forage plantings, as planting dates move later than optimum it becomes more critical that winter forage seeds be planted deep enough. Winter forages need to be planted a minimum of 1.25 inches deep. This deeper planting depth will allow the roots to establish firmly in the soil and resist early spring heaving.

For both early- and late-planted winter forages, a shot of nitrogen in the fall can help stimulate fall tillering without affecting winter hardiness. This can be applied in the form of manure or commercial fertilizer and can have a beneficial effect on yields the following spring. In New York trials, adding and immediately incorporating 4,000 gallons of manure per acre prior to planting increased yields for early-planted winter triticale by 14% and for later-planted winter triticale by 33%. However, manure application at this time can be harder to accomplish as harvest is ongoing and labor is often tied up in chopping and hauling. If a choice must be made, it is more important to get the winter forage in the ground early than it is to delay for the sake of adding manure. Getting the winter forage in the ground on time is more critical than applying manure because it maximizes both fall tillering and the absorption of leftover soil nitrogen. Most corn that has had manure applied will have some leftover nitrogen to support the fall tillering necessary for higher spring yields.

Last but not least, don’t forget to consider variety selection. New forage varieties continue to be developed and released because they offer improvements over existing varieties, and winter forages are no different. Choose a variety that has been tested and has shown superior performance in terms of forage yield and quality, and be sure to select and plant certified, weed-free seed in order to reach maximum potential.


On-Farm Solar Training

Drew Schiavone, Energy Specialist
University of Maryland Extension

Are you interested in installing solar photovoltaics (PV) on your farm? If so, you’ll want to join this free webinar series, designed to help farmers, landowners, and ag service providers across the state address the opportunities and challenges associated with on-farm solar PV.

Many farms in Maryland are considering solar PV due to high energy costs, the decreasing cost of solar technology and various environmental benefits. For these reasons and more, farmers and landowners across the state are considering small-scale installations to support their operations and/or leasing their land for large-scale solar installations.

This series explores the basic principles of solar PV technology and the application of appropriate on-farm technology. The information and resources provided in this webinar series will help you to sustainably implement solar PV on your farm.

Live training sessions will run weekly on Wednesdays from 1:00 pm-2:00 pm from September 30 through December 2. No session will beheld on Thanksgiving week (November 25). Participants are encouraged to join the live presentations as they occur, however, all presentations will be recorded for later viewing. Presentations will be conducted on Zoom with other educational materials made available through this webpage. Each module will be presented live by University and Extension experts. All training sessions are free.


For more information about the program, contact Drew Schiavone, (301) 432-2767  ext. 342


Maryland Private Pesticide Applicator Exam

September 17, Easton, MD

Maryland Private Pesticide Applicator Certification Exam

Sept 17, 2020, 9-noon and 1-4 pm

Talbot Agriculture Center, 10659 Hiners Ln, Easton, MD 21601

Testing to take place under the pavilions, 10 individuals allowed under each pavilion

Testing spots are first come first serve. Participants wait in their vehicle until there is a space available for them at one of the tables.

University of Maryland Extension and Maryland Department of Agriculture will offer the Pesticide Private Applicator Exam. You can arrive at any point during that block of time however only 10 people will be allowed under the pavilion at one time. Others will need to wait in their vehicle until a space opens. You are asked to bring your own pencil and calculator (you CANNOT) use your cell phone as a calculator.

Sign Up:

Please sign up so that we have an estimate on the number of exams to provide.

Study materials ($10) – If you need the study materials you can contact your local Extension office


Optional certification training

September 9, 6-8pm, Online


Safety measures: The event will be outdoors with a maximum of 10 people under the pavilion. Each individual will sign in and be directed to their own table in order to complete the exam. Masks and social distancing will be maintained. The table and any supplies will be wiped down before the next individual sits down.

COVID-19 policies are in effect. If you sign up for this program, you are agreeing to have your temperature taken, maintain social distance of at least 6 feet apart for others, not gather in groups greater than 10 people, and bring and properly wear a mask at all times. There will be a form for tracing purposes for you to fill out and sign when you arrive. Please do not attend the event if you are sick or have any COVID-19 symptoms (CDC symptoms list: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea). You will be required to leave if you do not follow these procedures.

Any questions please contact the Talbot County Extension Office at (410) 822-1244 or email


Soil Health Grant Available to Farmers

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) is accepting applications for the Farming for Healthy Soil Program. This three-year program begins this fall and provides financial assistance to farmers for implementing soil health practices on their farm. All livestock and crop (including grain, forage, fruit, and vegetables) farms are eligible for this program. Approved soil health practices include conservation tillage/residue management, multi-species cover crop mixtures, extended season cover crops, prescribed grazing, and precision nutrient management. Practices must be new to the farm; for example, adopting a practice never used on site before or changing from a one species cover crop to a two species cover crop.

Rates range from $10 to $55 per acre. Fields eligible for the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share (MACS) Cover Crop Program can receive financial assistance from this grant in addition to the MACS funding; however, MACS enrolled fields must be extended season (planted before October 1 and terminated after May 1) or multi-species cover crops. The maximum funding per participating producer is $5,000 annually. Farmers must be in compliance with MDA programs (i.e. nutrient management) in order to participate.

Farmers are expected to commit up to three years of practice implementation on the same field(s). Soil samples will be taken this fall and again in the fall of 2022 to compare before and after practice implementation. Soil samples will also be taken in adjacent or nearby fields which have not had soil health practices to serve as control fields. University of Maryland Extension Agriculture Agents will be collecting the soil samples for farms in Western and Central Maryland.

The application form should be submitted to Kevin Antoszewski, MDA Healthy Soils Program Coordinator, at For questions, contact Kevin (email is preferred, but a voicemail can be left at 410-841-5866) or Kelly Nichols, University of Maryland Extension Ag Agent, at 301-600-3577 or