Corn Smut

Monday Morning Post

Yesterday morning, I was at my regular Master Gardener monthly meeting.   It's time we spend getting updated with what's going on around and in the gardens of our area. 

In yesterday's meeting, we discussed and saw samples of corn smut which is plaguing our gardens and farms because of the high humidity we've had.  Today, my regular day to volunteer at the Master Gardener Help Desk, the first person to stop in was someone with smutty corn.

Corn smut looks awful but it's simply a fungus (like mushrooms) growing on the corn - usually at the tip.

In some parts of the world, like Mexico, the fungus is eaten like mushrooms and is considered a delicacy.  In the United States, infected ears are usually culled (thrown away).

As the fungus matures, it breaks open and a black, powdery mass of spores is exposed and gets blown around by the wind and or winds up in the soil - hiding until it infects the next corn crop.

Hot, dry weather during pollination, followed by rainy weather, seems to favor spreading and development. Corn grown on heavily manured soils often develops severe smut.

Collecting and destroying the smut galls (balls) before they mature, become dark and break open will help reduce the problem in small plantings.

Crop rotation, in which corn is not grown more often than one year in three, will also help.

The most effective control is to plant resistant hybrids. No hybrid is completely immune but most of the recommended hybrids are reasonably resistant.

Many of the commonly used sweet corn varieties are susceptible to this disease, however.
Sweet corn varieties with some resistance to common smut
Seneca Sensation
Seneca Snow Prince
Seneca Sugar Prince
Silver King
Silver Prince
Summer Flavor 72W

Sweet corn varieties that are highly susceptible to common smut
Country Gentlemen Hybrid
Golden Beauty
Silver Queen
Spring Gold


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