Mouldy corn could return in 2019, expert warns
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 BrookeAlvinston 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) above-average 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.
Albert Tenuta, field pathologist with OMAFRA, talks to members of the local chapter of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association at their annual meeting Friday.