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Section 26.5.7: Common Smuts

Ustilago maydis

Time of concern: Seedling through ear formation
Key characteristics: Commonly found on the ears, tassels, and nodes, smut is a gall composed of a white, smooth covering containing black, greasy, or powdery spores. 

Management Option Guideline

Scout the field two or three times per season. Where feasible, cut out all of the smut balls before they break open, and destroy them by fire or burial. No thresholds are available.

Fresh Market Sweet Corn IPM Scouting Procedures

Note(s) Young galls are considered culinary delicacies in some cultures. Consider marketing galls to upscale markets.
Resistant varieties

Varieties vary in susceptibility. Choose resistant varieties when possible. See Section 26.1 Recommended Varieties.

Virginia Cooperative Extension: Corn Smut

Crop rotation

Plant only in fields where sweet or field corn has not been grown in the previous year.

Seed selection/treatment Seed treatment is not useful.
Postharvest Crop debris should be destroyed as soon as possible to remove this source of disease for other plantings and to initiate decomposition.
Site selection and
These are not currently viable management options.
Pesticides(s) No pesticides are available to manage common smut.