Plant pathologists collaborate to share knowledge on a growing threat to corn production

A growing threat to corn around the world, tar spot has had a significant impact on corn production in the United States. From 2018 to 2020, the disease caused a loss of 242.6 million bushels and this number is expected to increase after the 2021 season.

Corn tar spot was first spotted in Mexico in 1904. It has spread to 15 other countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean and reached the United States in 2015 and Canada in 2020. When environmental conditions are ideal for infection, tar spot can cause yield losses of up to 100%.

To combat this growing threat, a group of 22 plant pathologists from 12 institutions have developed a recovery plan that reviews current knowledge and future needs of tar spot, with the goal of mitigating the impact of the disease. They used new technology to monitor the onset and progression of tar spots in real time, and also worked closely with plant pathologists across North America to compare notes.

“This disease outbreak highlights the importance of plant pathologists at the State’s Land Grant University Extension who have worked together to enable communication across state lines in tracking this recently introduced disease.” , said Dr. Darcy Telenko, the corresponding author of the story. By working together, they were able to quickly disseminate best management practices found in evidence-based research.

“Ongoing research is having a real impact on American agriculture as this disease causes significant yield loss in the Midwest and continues to spread to new corn growing areas in the United States and Canada,” said Telenko added.

This recovery plan demonstrates the importance of continued collaboration between academic extension, plant disease diagnostic laboratories, USDA, and industry to monitor and identify new and emerging plant pathogens that could impact American agriculture.

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Material provided by American Society for Plant Pathology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Donald E. Patel