Moldy corn is out there in many fields. Maybe you're lucky and it's not in your area. But the best advice from experts is to check before you harvest. Purdue University Extension grain specialist Richard Stroshine notes that it's much harder to detect grain carrying one or more ear rot organisms once the grain has been shelled.
Barry Soliday with icorn.com has been in the field, seeing these molds firsthand. He offers these tips for detecting which mold you're dealing with. Remember, the key is to check in standing corn before harvest, not after the combine goes through the field. The reason to check is two-fold- moldy grain of any type may need to be managed more carefully in storage, and corn infected with one certain mold may be toxic to animals especially to hogs.
"We're seeing diplodia and gibberella the most," Soliday says. "Diplodia is probably less damaging. Gibbertella is a little more widespread and the real cause for concern for most growers in the Midwest."
Here's a closer look at both.
Diplodia- Look for a gray to black color. You may also see a cotton-like mold on actual ears that are infected. Obviously, you're going to need to pull back shucks to see what extent of infection is already underway.
"You can store grain infected with it on the farm, but you need to watch moisture levels in your stored grain, and be conscious of how long you keep it in storage," Soliday says. "It's OK to feed it, but animals may not be crazy about the taste of feed."
Gibberella- The tell-tale sign of this fungus is a pink-to-salmon colored mold. Expect it to start at the tip of the ear. Again, pull back shucks to check quality of the rest of the ear. If you're unlucky enough o live in northern Indiana where western bean cutworm has invaded, you can likely tell the extent of damage without pulling back shucks. Shucks are already chewed, forming entry points. It's not likely to be a pretty picture.
"Your best bet is to take this one to town," Soliday advises. "Let the professionals handle this animal."
That's the key word- animal. If fed to animals, the results may not be any prettier than the ears look in the field. Hogs are especially sensitive to vomitoxin that's produced. "Our blanket advice is not to feed Gibberella-infected corn," Soliday says.