Gibberella Stalk Rot

Encyclopedia Article

Description and Symptoms

Gibberella stalk rot (Gibberella zeae) is another common stalk disease in the Midwest. Affected plants have shredded pith that is discolored a distinct pink or red and will die prematurely. Gibberella stalk rot causes dark streaks on the lower internodes. In moist conditions, round black specks may form at the lower nodes. These specks can be scratched off the stalk surface easily using a fingernail. The fungus overwinters in corn residue and sometimes in seed. Spores are produced during wet weather. They are spread by wind and splashing water; infection takes place through the roots, wounds in the stalk, or leaf scars. This fungus also causes diseases of cereal crops, such as wheat scab. Rotation and tillage will reduce inoculum. If more than 10 to 15 percent of stalks are observed to be rotted 40 to 60 days after pollination, the field should be scheduled for earliest possible harvest.  


• Target fields that have had significant foliar disease.
• Target hybrids with low stalk rot and/or standability scores.
• Evaluate at least 100 plants per field (20 plants in 5 locations).
• Use the "push test" or the "pinch test" to determine standability. If 10 to 15 percent of plants lodge or are rotted, schedule an early harvest.


The gibberella stalk rot occurs in warm and wet conditions two to three weeks after silking. 

Photo by Gary Munkvold

​Related Articles:

Towards a Successful Harvest: Stalk Rots and Standability Issues