Integrated Best Management Practices (BMPs)

The goal of this theme is to establish BMPs for managing mycotoxins in corn. First, we will address current knowledge gaps associated with fungicides, timing of application of biocontrol strains, and the impact of transgenic Bt corn on ear rot and mycotoxin contamination. In subsequent years, the novel strategies from Themes 2 and 3 and the risks and economic analysis from Theme 4 will be incorporated into management programs that provide stakeholders with decision-making information.

Filling knowledge gaps for best management practices to reduce mycotoxins

Application of nontoxigenic strains of A. flavus reduces aflatoxin production in commercial corn production and is currently the most viable option for aflatoxin management.  We are conducting regional research in Indiana, Texas, and North Carolina that will address the following:

  • Effectiveness of timing and rate of application of Afla-Guard and AF-36.
  • Effectiveness of Bt hybrids on aflatoxin and fumonisin contamination.
  • Interaction of fungicides and biocontrol.


Extension Programs

A variety of approaches are being developed to communicate the improved BMPs developed in this project to corn producers, and to collect information from producers as to their current management practices and the likelihood that new approaches generated in this project would be adopted and make an impact. These include the following:

  • Field demonstrations and workshops

Each year, we organize field demonstrations and winter workshops in each state to improve clientele awareness of corn ear rots and mycotoxin issues. Workshops include demonstration plots to illustrate management concepts, basic biology and identification of ear rot fungi, implications of mycotoxin contaminated grain, and current storage and marketing techniques for contaminated grain.

A sample video from one of these events, a YouTube clip from the 2014 NC Corn Aflatoxin Control Field Day highlighting the aims of the project, is available here.  More information on the event itself (a pdf file of the schedule of the event) is available here.

  • Video and web resources

A series of videos demonstrating the value of integrated management, as well as ways to test for aflatoxin and identify Aspergillus ear rot, is availble here

Our sister website ( contains current information on identification of ear rot fungi, mycotoxin information and frequently-asked questions (FAQ), and recommendations for disease management and proper grain storage.

  • Development of interactive and mobile decision-making tool

We (Purdue and the University of Arkansas) are currently developing a diagnostic tool to help producers and agribusiness personnel determine appropriate management recommendations for Aspergillus and Fusarium ear rots. The tool will be available in two formats: an internet-based interactive web portal and a smart phone App designed for Apple iOS mobile devices (iPhone and iPad). The app/web portal will contain several modules with information on ear rot identification, mycotoxin FAQs, mycotoxin management, and proper grain storage.  The goal is to incorporate information from the two project websites, and provide research results in multiple formats to deliver information to as many audiences as possible.  We will also use research results from Theme 1 experiments and Theme 4 economic analyses to develop an economic calculator that will help farmers determine mycotoxin risk, and calculate potential management costs to help with management decisions. 

  • Surveys

Surveys were conducted at Extension programs in all states in 2014-15. These programs focused on ear rot identification, in-season management strategies, understanding mycotoxin development, and mycotoxin management in stored grain. Meetings were attended by certified crop advisors, industry representatives, custom applicators, and farmers. Key findings from these surveys include the following:


  • 2/3 of respondents experienced significant problems with ear rots and mycotoxins over the last five years, and felt a need for active management. 50% of respondents were very or moderately concerned about ear rot and mycotoxins. Only 10% of respondents were not concerned about mycotoxins at all. 
  • 85% felt that planting resistant hybrids was effective or very effective for ear rot control, and roughly the same amount indicated that atoxigenic biocontrols and reducing plant stress were all somewhat effective to very effective in managing mycotoxins. Interestingly, almost 90% of respondents indicated that foliar fungicides had some efficacy; since multiple trials in this project have found that fungicides are not effective for ear rot control, this provides an opportunity for educational outreach. 
  • Majority of respondents would be willing to pay $4-6/bag for a hybrid with broad and effective resistance to ear rots and mycotoxins.
  • The majority (60%) prefer to receive new information on ear rots and mycotoxins through University Extension internet websites, followed by industry contacts (person-to-person information) and app/smart phone technology.





  • 72% experienced significant problems with ear rots and mycotoxins over the last five years, and felt a need for active management. 90% had at least some aflatoxin in their corn over this period. 44% of respondents were somewhat concerned about aflatoxin on an annual basis, while 27% were very concerned and 27% moderately concerned. 
  • However, 61% indicated that mycotoxins had little to no effect on profits
  • 55% were not sure which ear rots were present in corn; 45% indicated Aspergillus specifically. 
  • 61% did not see their mold/mycotoxin problem until their corn was docked at the elevator.
  • While more than 60% indicated that atoxigenic biocontrols are effective or very effective in managing mycotoxins, only 45% believed resistant hybrids were25% felt that fungicides were at least somewhat effective at reducing mycotoxins, while 50% did not know. 
  • Majority of respondents would be willing to pay $7-12/bag for a hybrid with broad and effective resistance to ear rots and mycotoxins. However, 20% would not pay any extra.
  • Vast majority (78%) prefer to get their information person-to-person and from University Extension print material; only 11% prefer websites, and 5% want an app/smart phone format.