In parts of central Mexico, galls of common smut, caused by Ustilago maydis (Syn = Ustilago zeae Ung.), on ears of corn (Zea mays L.) are an edible delicacy known as cuitlacoche. Preliminary studies were done to identify methods to increase formation of ear galls on sweet corn. Of 370 sweet corn hybrids evaluated in disease nurseries, 38 hybrids were identified for which incidence of ear galls exceeded 40% in 1987 or 1988 or exceeded 12% in 1990. Inoculation techniques for inducing ear galls were: 1) spraying sporidial suspensions between leaf sheaths and stalks at the sixth to eighth nodes; 2) injecting sporidial suspensions into the sixth to eighth internodes; 3) wounding leaf sheaths at the sixth to eighth nodes with sand, followed by spraying a sporidial suspension into wounds; and 4) wounding leaf sheaths at the sixth to eighth nodes with sand in which teliospores were mixed. Only the sporidial injection technique substantially increased the incidence of smut, but it increased the incidence of stalk, tassel, and leaf galls more than ear galls. Thus, additional research is needed to determine when and how to inoculate with U. maydis to induce the formation of ear galls necessary to commercially produce cuitlacoche and to screen for disease resistance.
Approximately 200 sweet corn inbred lines were screened for two years for resistance to northern leaf blight, caused by Exserohilum turcicum, and Stewart's wilt, caused by Erwinia stewartii. Inbreds with the best levels of partial resistance to races 1 and 2 of E. turcicum included IL11d, IL676a, IL677a, IL685d, IL766a, IL767a and IL797a. Inbreds with the best partial resistance to E. stewartii included IL126b, IL676a, IL767a, IL772a, IL774g, IL797a, IL798a and M6011. Several of these resistant and moderately resistant inbreds had common ancestors; however, inspection of pedigrees suggested that resistance was derived from Puerto Rican, Bolivian, and other tropical sources and/or dent corn. Thus, many of the sweet corn inbreds may carry different genes for resistance and can be used for the development of populations with improved resistance.
Resistance to Puccinia sorghi Schwein. based on the Rp1-D gene has been used successfully in North America for the past 15 years to control common rust on sweet corn (Zea mays L.). The objective of this preliminary research was to examine rust reactions of Rp-hybrids grown for processing in the midwestern United States against biotypes of P. sorghi virulent against Rp1-D. In Sept. 1999, isolates of P. sorghi virulent on corn with the Rp1-D gene were collected throughout the midwestern United States. Rust reactions of 41 Rp-resistant, processing sweet corn hybrids and nine non-Rp hybrids were evaluated during the 1999-2000 season in Argentina, Hawaii, Mexico, and South Africa, where populations of P. sorghi are virulent against Rp1-D. Sporulating uredinia were observed on all hybrids in all locations. Although rust reactions varied among locations, mean standardized scores of nine non-Rp hybrids that were included in the trial as controls ranked nearly the same as in previous trials. Thirteen hybrids with standardized scores above 0.25 were more susceptible than the hybrid with the lowest mean rust rating, `Green Giant Code 27'. Thirty-two hybrids were intermediate in reaction to P. sorghi virulent against Rp1-D. Reactions were moderately resistant for nine hybrids with mean standardized scores below -0.50, including two moderately resistant, non-Rp hybrids (`GG Code 27' and `GG Code 6') that were included as controls. Additional trials are necessary to confirm reactions of these hybrids. If the Rp-hybrids that were moderately susceptible or susceptible in this trial are infected by P. sorghi virulent against Rp1-D, secondary inoculum will be abundant and infection will be severe if the weather is wet.
Ear gall development was evaluated after inoculating sweet corn (Zea mays L.) hybrids with Ustilago maydis (DC) Corda by injecting sporidial suspensions into silk channels when silks had emerged ≈3 to 6 cm from ear shoots. Gall incidence was ≈35% in two inoculation trials. About 0.5% of the noninoculated control plants was infected. Gall weight increased ≈250% to 500% between 14 and 21 days after inoculation, reaching a maximum of ≈280 to 600 g. Gall tissue was nearly 100% black and had lost its spongy integrity 19 to 21 days after inoculation, when mycelial cells formed powdery teliospores. A 1- or 2-day harvest window during which huitlacoche yield and quality were optimized corresponded to the time at which 60% to 80% of the gall tissue was black. The optimal huitlacoche harvest time varied among hybrids from 17 to 19 days after inoculation, but we suspect that optimal harvest time varies from ≈15 to 24 days after inoculation, depending on the growth stage at which the host is inoculated and the environmental conditions following inoculation. Differences among sweet corn hybrids in gall incidence, gall size, and coverage of mature galls by husk leaves were observed and could be used to select sweet corn hybrids that are well suited for producing huitlacoche.