Mouldy corn could re­turn in 2019, ex­pert warns

The Beacon Herald - - NEWS - LOUIS PIN

The “per­fect storm” of weather con­di­tions in 2018 that trig­gered wide­spread mould in On­tario corn — and wide­spread yield losses — could be­come more fre­quent.

That’s ac­cord­ing to Al­bert Tenuta, a field crop pathol­o­gist with On­tario’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Food, and Ru­ral Af­fairs. Speak­ing at the an­nual On­tario Soil and Crop Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion gen­eral meet­ing in Brooke-Alvin­ston Fri­day, Tenuta said lo­cal farm­ers have seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in hotspots brought on by milder weather over the past five years.

In 2018, it proved a trou­bling con­clu­sion for an oth­er­wise high-yield year for farm­ers.

“Over­all for corn, soy­beans, and wheat, we were good,” Tunuta said. “In many cases, (we had) aboveav­er­age yields and that, so we had good, favourable en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions … but along with those favourable en­vi­ron­ment con­di­tions, cer­tain pest prob­lems in­creased.

“We can’t do any­thing about the weather. The one thing we can do is man­age risk.”

Re­cent weather in South­west­ern On­tario has been a prob­lem, Tenuta said. In the fu­ture, farm­ers want­ing to min­i­mize yield losses may have to bank on a col­lec­tion of hy­brids, some more sus­cep­ti­ble to mould­caus­ing DON (de­oxyni­valenol) and other pests and dis­eases, like gib­berella.

It’s not as easy as choos­ing one less-sus­cep­ti­ble hy­brid, Tenuta added, as each hy­brid is still vul­ner­a­ble to cer­tain con­di­tions and dis­eases. Other re­search is be­ing done at the Uni­ver­sity of Guelph Ridgetown Cam­pus to help farm­ers de­ter­mine which hy­brids are best suited for har­vest dur­ing On­tario’s now-warmer fall sea­son.

“We’re work­ing co-op­er­a­tively to min­i­mize the risk,” Tenuta said. “Look­ing at ev­ery­thing from hy­brid de­vel­op­ment, hy­brid screen­ing, and fungi­cide man­age­ment tri­als as well.”

The On­tario gov­ern­ment agreed to sub­si­dize farm­ers test­ing for DON in late 2018. That money only cov­ered the tests — not pro­duc­tion losses by farm­ers, es­ti­mated in the mil­lions of dol­lars.

Sar­nia Ob­server

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