Maybe you’ve met our regular corncob models before. That set replicates full, healthy ears of field corn, sweet corn, and popcorn. In contrast, these models of diseased corncobs look awful. But it turns out they have a great purpose too.
Each of the diseased models shows the symptoms of a different corncob infection. We designed them for colleges to use in teaching future agronomists to recognize infections quicker.
The Most Common Corncob Diseases
Aspergillus infections cause olive-green mold to grow on the corn. Since the mold produces a toxin that’s dangerous to animals, the U.S. has regulations preventing farmers from using aspergillus-infected corn. That means farmers and agronomists need to be able to identify aspergillus easily.
Diplodia ear rot causes a distinctive thick white mold. It damages kernels, leaving the ears underweight and lower-quality.
Fusarium is the most common disease in corn ears. Because the Fusarium fungus produces mycotoxins, it’s vital to recognize it quickly. The mycotoxins can sicken the animals that eat it, even causing death in some species.
Like diplodia, gibberella ear rot causes a thick mold on the ears. But gibberella is easy to recognize because it also causes kernels to turn pink. It can be a surprisingly bright color in severe cases. Gibberella ear rot often produces toxins that cause animals to reject their feed. But if it’s eaten anyway, it can also harm females’ reproductive systems.
Penicillium probably sounds familiar because of the antibiotic penicillin — and in fact, penicillin comes from penicillium molds. But when penicillium mold infects a corncob, it’s far from healthful. Penicillium ear rot produces a blueish mold that usually attacks the tip of the ear first. And, it produces a toxin associated with risk of cancer and kidney disease.
Unlike the others, trichoderma ear rot doesn’t usually damage a farmer’s bottom line. It doesn’t produce mycotoxins and usually infects only a few plants in a field. Our model shows some kernels prematurely sprouting, which is one of the most distinctive symptoms.
Each corncob in this set of diseased models comes in a display tube, labeled with its disease.