Researchers to study new corn disease found in Illinois and Iowa

MONMOUTH, Illinois -

Just weeks before the corn harvest begins, Illinois and Iowa farmers are on the lookout for a new disease that could eventually impact their crops.

That's after researchers spotted something called Bacterial Leaf Streak in a DeKalb County field.

Mysterious because it's spreading into eight states.

With the seed corn harvest underway at Munson Hybrids in Galesburg, farmers are looking for any clues from the kernels.

"There's a chance for having the disease because it's present in the residue," said John Hennenfent, Munson's owner.

So far, there's no sign of it in fields surrounding the Quad Cities.

University of Illinois Extension Educator Angie Peltier says the disease could make kernels weigh less.

That translates to fewer dollars for farmers.

"What farmers are actually harvesting is the individual kernels," she said.

There's also no sign of the disease at the University of Illinois Research Farm in Monmouth.

Six surrounding counties also remain clear.

"It may be one thing we don't see every year," Hennenfent continued.  "We'll have to really kind of hone our senses as we're out in the fields."

Local growers are expecting a better than average corn harvest in 2016.

Still, hot, wet and humid conditions tend to favor development of the corn disease.

"They want us to look not necessarily where this came from although that's important," she said.  "But at this point, what to do about it."

Researchers think it's more of a cosmetic problem that puts streaks into the green leaves.

While it isn't threatening to humans, animals or the food supply, there isn't any treatment.

"We're all going to be in a learning mode for the next year or two," Hennenfent said.

Farmers will try to keep from taking crop debris from one field into another.

As the seed corn harvest continues, researchers will be looking for solutions.

"At this time, it's so early that we really don't know," Hennenfent concluded.