Uneven corn emergence can lead to major yield loss later in the season.
Uneven corn emergence can lead to major yield loss later in the season.

In challenging years, every bushel counts. To give this year's crop a fighting chance at profitability, it will be important to keep an eye out for yield-robbing corn seedling diseases. Here are three corn seedling diseases to watch out for this season.

1. Pythium has at least 14 species that can damage corn. According to the University of Nebraska, it can overwinter in soil and plant debris for several years. If you’ve had the disease in previous years, it can easily come back with the right weather conditions--even if you didn't see it last year. Pythium can lead to seedling blight and root rots and favors cool, wet soils.

Courtesy of Iowa State University

While Pythium might be the biggest issue in Arkansas right now, thanks to wet soil from recent heavy rains, there are other seedling diseases to watch for. Fusarium and Rhizotonia can cause stand damage.

2. Fusarium is a versatile disease that can infect corn under a variety of temperatures and moisture conditions. Keep a close eye on stressed plants from weather extremes (temperature and moisture), herbicide damage and physical injury as they are more prone to the disease, according to the University of Nebraska.

Courtesy of University of Minnesota

3. Rhizotonia contrasts Pythium and prefers drier conditions. Infected plants might have reddish-brown lesions that can rot off roots. In some cases corn might be stunted or chlorotic, but it does not always show above ground symptoms. University of Nebraska research says the root and crown rot caused by Rhizotonia can even lead to seedling death.

Courtesy of University of Nebraska

“If you have a poor stand you’ll be disappointed in your yield,” says Jason Kelley, University of Arkansas wheat and seed grain (corn, sorghum) Extension agronomist. “Small details will add up this year.” He warns farmers who haven’t begun planting to not get into a hurry—don’t plant into wet soils or right ahead of a rain.

Farmers who already planted should be diligently scouting, especially after emergence. “The first two weeks are critical since corn is more susceptible,” Kelley says. Scouting will help you make important management decisions, such as replanting if severe, and help you manage expectations based on stand for the year.