Corn School: Selecting hybrids for gibberella and DON defence

Dr. Dave Hooker, University of Guelph

In recent years, many corn growers in Ontario have wrestled with gibberella ear rot in the crop and the high levels of deoxynivalenol (DON) levels it can produce in the grain.

It’s made for stressful harvest seasons, especially in 2018 when mycotoxins produced by the gibberella fungus in some fields climbed well above safe feeding limits and impacted marketing opportunities for many growers.

One thing corn breeders, researchers, and growers have come to understand is the role genetics can play in gibberella infection. Hybrid choice does matter — some hybrids are just more susceptible to gibberella and DON production.

But growers now have a new tool to help them with their hybrid choices. The Ontario Corn Committee has just released its first-ever DON Screening Trials Report to provide a risk assessment of hybrids entered in the 2023 trials, along with a multi-year assessment on the same hybrids if data were available.

Some seed companies have been voluntarily submitting hybrids for testing since 2019. Hybrids were tested in inoculated disease nurseries at the University of Gueph’s Ridgetown Campus from 2019 through 2023, at the Huron Research Station in Exeter, Ont., from 2021 to 2023, and at AAFC’s research farm in Ottawa in 2019.

On this episode of RealAgriculture Corn School, University of Guelph crops researcher Dave Hooker and Ontario ministry of agriculture plant pathologist Albert Tenuta — two of the driving forces behind the report — dig into the trial results and offer tips on how growers can use the information to build a better defence against gibberella and DON.

Tap here for more Corn School episodes.

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