As Ohio corn growers struggle with moldy grain in storage and costly vomitoxin problems, they are faced with the challenges of selecting hybrids for the 2010 growing season they hope will help them avoid a repeat of poor grain quality.

But no matter how good their choices may be, the weather may ultimately decide the season, says Pierce Paul, an Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

"If all you need is favorable weather to cause the development of ear rots and vomitoxin, then that tells me that the hybrid has no genetic resistance to fungal infection. So it’s easy to say then that if the hybrid you planted in 2009 had ear rot problems, then don’t plant that hybrid in 2010," says Paul. "But on the other hand, just because you planted a hybrid that had low ear rot problems doesn’t necessarily mean it’s of low resistance to this disease. It could be that environmental conditions just weren’t favorable for fungal development in that particular field."

And such is the game that growers must play when selecting hybrids for the 2010 growing season.

Disease resistance is just one important characteristic growers must look for in a successful hybrid. High yields and standability are just a few other important elements and a hybrid must carry a bit of all of them to be a successful in production, in yields and in grain quality.

"Try to find a hybrid with good yields and good disease resistance," says Paul. "Yield is of no value if grain is of poor quality and you can’t sell it. This was the case in several fields in 2009, conditions were great for grain yield, but several high-yielding fields planted with ear rot susceptible hybrids had poor grain quality because of high vomitoxin contamination"

He recommends growers look to their seed companies for hybrids that have been tested for resistance to ear rots in performance trials.

"Growers are going to have a place a judgment call and either way they are going to be taking a gamble," says Paul.

Across the Midwest, late harvest and wet weather created conditions ripe for ear rot development, specifically Gibberella ear rot. Not only does the fungal pathogen produce moldy corn, affecting grain quality, but it also produces vomitoxin, which is harmful to both humans and animals.

For the latest on properly testing, handling and storing potentially infected grain, refer to the OSU Extension Agronomic Crops Team Web site.