- Maize

Maize Maize

Northern Leaf Spot of Maize

Fungus

Cochliobolus carbonum


In a Nutshell

  • Elongated to oval or circular light-brown lesions, often surrounded by a dark margin, appear on the lower leaves.
  • In some cases, these lesions may also occur on leaf sheaths and husks covering the ear.
  • Black mold is sometimes visible on the kernels.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary slightly depending on the hardiness of the pathogen, the degree of susceptibility of the plant, and on environmental conditions. First symptoms usually appear in late stages of plant growth, either during the emergence of silk threads or at full maturity. Elongated to oval or circular light-brown lesions appear on the lower leaves, often surrounded by a dark margin. The length and width of the lesions depend on the strength of the pathogen and the type of plant used. In some cases, these lesions may also occur on leaf sheaths and husks covering the ear. Black mold is sometimes visible on the kernels.

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Hosts

Trigger

Northern leaf spot of maize is caused by the fungus Helminthosporium carbonum, which overwinters on corn residues in the soil. The spores on these debris serve as primary source of infection during wet weather. Secondary infection from plant to plant is wind- or rain-driven. The disease develops mainly on plants used in seed production and is therefore rarely a problem in the fields, where mostly resistant hybrids are grown. The progression of the disease is favored by moderate temperatures, humid weather, and minimal tillage of the field after harvest. If it occurs during the the grain filling phase, it can result in yield losses of 30 percent of more.

Organic Control

Most treatments named here have only been used in small scales. Essential oil from Indian bael (Aegle marmelos) is active against Helminthosporium carbonum, at least in laboratory tests. Different compounds isolated from leaf extracts of some maize varieties (resistant and susceptible alike) can be toxic to the fungus. Fungi isolated from the pith of stalk rot-affected maize plants seem also to parasitize on known plant pathogenic fungi, including C. carbonum.

Chemical Control

Always consider an integrated approach with preventive measures combined with biological or organic treatments. On susceptible plants, a foliar fungicide application at the beginning of silking is probably necessary. For example, spraying with mancozeb @ 2.5 g/l of water at 8-10 days interval is effective against the pathogen.

Preventive Measures

  • Check for tolerant or resistant varieties available in your market.
  • Fields should be scouted on a weekly basis to monitor disease development.
  • Space plants to allow canopy to dry quickly after rainfall or irrigation.
  • Lay mulch on the soil to keep plants from touching the soil.
  • Manage weeds to improve airflow and reduce humidity in canopy.
  • Make sure to fertilize the crops suitably in terms of nitrogen and potassium contents.
  • Avoid to work in fields when plants are wet.
  • If using susceptible crops, rotate with non-hosts such as bean, soybean or sunflower.
  • Tillage after harvest to bury plant debris in the soil can also help to reduce populations.

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