Corn growers all over the state have heard about or experienced Vomitoxin, a.k.a. VOM or DON. If you haven’t, count yourself very, very lucky.

Growers are dealing with docked prices, rejected loads, infected bins, denied crop insurance claims, and very few answers on how to deal with the situation.

The Ohio Corn Checkoff (OCMP) has been funding research projects at Ohio State for years to look into predicting the occurrence of VOM, how to avoid it, and what to do if you know you have it. While we don’t have a cure for the fungus that produces Vomitoxin, we do know enough to help mitigate your risk.

There are some things you can do. We know that VOM lives in the organic material left over after harvest. Doing some form of tilling on the fields you know are infected will help push that fungus into the soil and allow the organic material to decompose, essentially cutting off the fungus’s food supply. We know that rotating your crop away from corn, wheat, and other grassy crops remove the opportunities for the fungus to grow and give it time to die off. And we know that the fungus is transported to the corn silks either by air or water, so any fungicide application has to break past the initial canopy cover, making ground application the most effective.

There is a specific time frame which Vomitoxin is able to spread. It has to be during silking and only when weather conditions are perfectly hot and humid. Unfortunately, that window is large in Ohio.

Storage is another aspect. The earlier you can harvest infected corn, the better. By giving the Vomitoxin less time to grow, you decrease your concentration; even if that means more time in the dryer. Those with on-farm storage have an advantage here. If you can blend out the infected corn, keep the temperatures low (like 34 degrees), and keep air flow high, you can get away with a less extreme case. But those fines in the bins can hold onto the fungus, so a very effective bin cleaner is necessary to not spread the infection from year to year.

Not to mention the testing for VOM between elevators can be extremely variable. A sample from one part of a truck load can test differently from another spot in the same truck; and a test from a truck is going to be different from a test in a bin. So if you get rejected or docked at the elevator, another elevator may test the same load completely differently. Plus crop insurance doesn’t accept those test results, so they have to retest in the bin, which is bound to give a different result and not be covered.

All of these factors combine to make a serious problem for Ohio grain producers — One the farmers on the Ohio Corn Checkoff Board of Directors have experienced first-hand. So they decided to do something about it.

Over the past 7 years the OCMP has invested almost $250,000 into researching this issue. Dr. Pierce Paul, Chair of the Department of Plant Pathology at Ohio State, and Jason Hartschuh, Field Specialist at Ohio State, created a prediction model for risk of infection based on weather patterns. More recently they did trials on different seed varieties to find out which were more or less susceptible, and when it’s best to apply fungicide.

This past winter the OCMP voted to fund another round of funding to create an online, user-friendly prediction model for growers to use. They are working with computer programers to make it as simple and informative as possible.

Stay tuned for a lot more information coming in the near future. This post will be updated with a link to direct you to a separate webpage full of information. For now, stay safe, and contact us if you have any questions.