Crops News

Corn smut can still create quality silage

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Keep an eye out for corn smut this harvest. Wet conditions across much of the U.S. have created the right environment for the pesky plant disease.

“While producers may see a drop in corn yields due to smut contamination, the crop is still valuable and can be successfully ensiled,” said Renato Schmidt, forage products specialist, Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “The fungus that causes smut does not itself produce toxins, and studies in sheep have shown it does not affect feed intake.”

Corn smut is caused by the growth of Ustilago maydis, which thrives in conditions of high humidity, poor pollination or damage from insects or equipment. Once the plant is infected, the fungi’s cells divide quickly and expand. This leads to large gray galls that contain black spores, typically on the corn ear tip.

The resulting galls decrease grain yield anywhere from 9 to 40 percent. When fed, Ustilago maydis can affect feed efficiency. Feed digestibility also can be reduced when infestation levels reach 50 percent or greater.

When corn contaminated with smut is ensiled, the disease also can restrict the rate and extent of fermentation and predispose the plant to further mold growth and the production of mycotoxins, Schmidt warns.

“Corn contaminated with smut can still be used for silage, but we strongly recommend using an inoculant that is research-proven to help drive a fast, efficient initial ensiling fermentation and inhibit the growth of detrimental spoilage microbes during feeding,”  Schmidt advises. “This can help keep the silage stable.”

 

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