Illinois is the latest state hit by a new type of corn disease, bacterial leaf streak, which leads to a progressive development of linear deformations between the veins of corn leaves.
A single positive sample of the disease was detected in a DeKalb County cornfield in the northern part of the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the finding Aug. 29.
Bacterial leaf streak also has been identified in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. So far, only the DeKalb specimen has been detected in Illinois.
The research was conducted by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Natural History Survey’s Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey and the University of Illinois Extension, which offers a community-based commercial agriculture curriculum.
Russ Higgins, a community educator with the university's extension program and a farmer himself, said the new disease poses a whole set of new challenges.
"This new disease is a bacterial disease," Higgins said. "Fungicides will not be effective against it, and really, there's not that much research that has been done to even indicate whether this is going to be a disease that really is going to limit yield to any great extent.
"With current commodity prices and the economics that are involved, and the value of the corn crop right now, we just don't see much in the way of treatments for bacterial diseases," Higgins said.
Higgins said that although little is known yet about bacterial leaf streak, in many cases, its symptoms first appear on the lower leaves before progressing through the plant.
The positive DeKalb sample came from a survey of approximately 340 randomly selected fields across 68 of the state's 102 counties.
Higgins said the region's farming community generally stays well-informed on the latest happenings in the industry --- including any news about mysterious crop ailments such as bacterial leaf streak.
"There are ag newspapers; there are a number of online entities that pick up this information very quickly and disperse it among the ag community, really pretty effectively," Higgins said. "Some of the farming population is a little older, but they've adopted these new technologies, and they're connected really pretty well."
Further research is needed to develop a fuller profile of the disease, including its impact and strategies for long-term management. However, scientists do not currently consider it a health risk to people or animals.