The disease could cut yields in half, according to one producer
By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content
Some farmers in America’s largest corn-producing region are working to minimize the damage from southern rust on their crops.
Symptoms of southern rust include small, circular spots that appear to be light orange or cinnamon-red in color. The disease develops primarily on the upper leaf surface but can also be seen on leaf sheaths, stalks, ear shanks and husk leaves.
If left for too long, southern rust can cause severe crop damage.
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“We harvested corn last year that was planted in early June,” Randy Anderson, a farmer from Illinois, told WSIL-TV on July 26. “And it had the potential of making anywhere between 170 to 180 bushel. Whenever the rust came in, it took (the yield) all the way down to anywhere from 70 to 90 bushel.”
And what makes southern rust even more challenging for producers is that, since the disease travels with the wind, it can appear almost anywhere.
In Kentucky, producer Keith Lowry found out last month the disease hit Jackson. It didn’t take long before he discovered southern rust in his crops.
“Sure enough, in about a week/10 days, it showed up in our county,” Lowry, who farms in Graves County, told WPSD6.
As the disease causes damage to corn, it can also create a domino effect for other producers and possibly consumers too, says Lowry, who sells his corn to local hog and chicken farms.
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The increased southern rust presence means aerial fungicide applicators are busy this year, said Greg Brown, owner of Southern Illinois Custom Aerials.
“We try to hit 2,500 to 3,000 acres a day per plane,” he told WSIL-TV. (Brown is running three planes daily.)
Spraying costs the equivalent of about five or six bushels per acre, Anderson estimated to WSIL-TV, but it’s better than losing almost 60 bushels per acre.
Southern rust has also been confirmed in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, according to Penn State University’s Integrated Pest Information Platform.