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Corn Kernels with Red Streaking (08/31/17)

Earlier this week I received a question about the cause of red streaking in developing corn kernels.

Corn Kernels with Red Streaking

Earlier this week I received a question about the cause of red streaking in developing corn kernels. This phenomenon is quite common in North Dakota and is caused by the plant’s reaction to the feeding of the wheat curl mite on the pericarp of the corn kernel. The wheat curl mite is the same pest that vectors the wheat streak mosaic virus in wheat. Corn is a host of the wheat curl mite, though it is unaffected by the wheat streak mosaic virus it may carry. This tiny mite moves from wheat and other grassy weeds to corn as they mature and dry. When these mites feed on developing corn kernels, the feeding can induce red pigments to form. Just as hybrids differ in amount of red coloring in their tassels, leaves, and cobs, hybrids differ in their response to producing red pigmentation when fed on by the wheat curl mite. This discoloration is the result of the plant reacting to something in the saliva of the wheat curl mite, it is not the remnant of a toxin injected by it. Therefore, these kernels do not contain any harmful chemicals, just some additional pigmentation.

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Joel Ransom

Extension Agronomist for Cereal Crops

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