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Corn Seedling Diseases

Young corn plants that emerge yellow and wilted or even die may be victims of diseases in the soil. There are many different types of fungal and fungal-like pathogens that can affect corn seedlings. Three of the most common are Pythium root rot, Rhizoctonia root rot, and Fusarium root rot.

Tamra Jackson-Ziems is an extension plant pathologist at the University of Nebraska. She says conditions that drive these diseases are related to moisture and having too much of it.

"If you have low, wet areas that stay wetter a little bit longer, they may have drainage issues, those tend to be ones where we might see some of those more common organisms causing disease like Pythium and Fusarium," she says. "Another one though, Rhizoctonia, it can cause disease in a wide range of conditions and so you can just rest assured that no matter what the inclimate conditions are, there’s probably a disease or pathogen that can take advantage of that."

Fungicide seed treatments only provide protection for a short window after planting. There’s not much you can do once a seedling emerges damaged by disease other than hope it recovers. However, planting in the right soil conditions is important for a fighting chance.

"Some of the most frequent and severe cases might be when we’ve tried to push the envelope and plant into soil that might be a little bit too cool and damp. It creates a stressful condition for those seeds, and it reduces the vigor and the speed at which they may emerge," she says. "And, so anything that slows that down is going to predispose it to seedling disease."