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Widespread epidemic of new plant disease threatens nation's corn crop ^tfjbMtt %7A4fct* r fM«M AM OAWr$M*k 1* •* J i. A •— -. ^_f _. -.4 _ Jl___il^_ _ 1 1 111 tit * .• •• .. ..... n i'» i r; ". 1 4 I.SuL.Li~'wVa Phoenix, Sun., Aug. 16,1970 The Arizona Republic A-21 New York Times Service WASHINGTON - A massive epidemic of a new strain of plant disease is sweeping the American Corn Belt with potentially devastating results. Department of Agriculture officials here have estimated that 10 per cent of the national corn crop will be destroyed by the disease, a new and more virulent form of a fungus called the southern leaf blight. These officials emphasized that the estimate was both preliminary and conservative and stated that crop losses could be much worse. Widely varying estimates by agricultural experts in the South and the Midwest have placed the damage at from 5 per cent to 50 per cent of the crop, although the latter estimate is regarded as almost certainly too high. Reports reaching the Department of Agriculture here said that every crop of field corn in the state of Illinois had become infected by the blight. Agriculture economists also have noted that corn figures have risen in price more than 10 per cent in the past two weeks in response to report of widespread damage to the feed grain crops. In the past six weeks estimates of the 1970 corn crop have dropped from 4.8 billion bushels to 4.6 billion bushels. Obscuring the statistics is the fact that this is the growing season for corn, and it is almost impossible to determine the impact of the epidemic until the crop is harvested. The Corn Belt has been having cool, moist weather which accelerates the impact of the blight. If the weather turns hot and dry the impact of the blight could be blunted. George Timmons, a grain farmer in De Land, 111. said of the blight, "We have it; we're concerned, but I don't think there's anything to do about it. It's like worrying about whether it's going to rain." Timmons explained in a telephone interview that it is possible to control the blight with chemicals sprayed from planes but added: "We can't afford it. Spraying is extremely expensive, and once you start you have to do it every seven days." Dr. H. Rex Thomas, director of the crops research division of the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture said that senior officials of the Depart- m e n t of Agriculture are scheduled to meet here next week to assess the damage caused by the blight. Thomas explained that the blight is one of several types that periodically have afflicted the corn crop but that this is a different strain of one of the common slypes. "When the blight gets on the leaves, they turn brown and die, and we have received reports of large necrotic (dead) areas on the leaf surfaces," he said. Thomas added that the fungus has, for what apparently is the first time, also appeared on the stalks and husks of the plants, this would mean that the amount of corn available as food to livestock and poul- try would be reduced, in addition to the stunting and death of plants. Almost all the corn grown in the United States is fed to dairy and beef cattle, hogs and poultry. Only a small percentage is eaten by humans. Dr. Thomas A. Hieronymus, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois, noted that there is a "carryover" of corn at the end of the year. Because of this, he said, he did not believe the fungus epidemic "would have an appreciable effect on the food supply unless things get a lot worse." Ecology festival by teen-agers clean-up affair BYRON, Ga. (AP) - A group of area teen • agers is conducting an informal "ecology festival" during weekends in this central Georgia town nearMacon. They're trying to clean up garbage still left from a pop festival held here'during the July 4th weekend. John Nixon of Warner Robins, a spokesman for the group, said they decided to spend some of their free time to clean up fields adjacent to the Middle Georgia Raceway, where the event, which at- tracted more than 250,000 persons, was held. He said about 50 young peo- e showed up yesterday to lelp clean up the litter and that he hoped more would volunteer from around the state to help in coming weekends. CAN YOU AFFORD NOT TO HAVE GAS AIR CONDITIONING ? WE THINK NOT! AND HERE IS WHY! 1. OPERATING COSTS ARE LESS! Natural gas costs much less in fact is one of the lowest cost fuels used in the U.S. today. Natural gas air conditioning units cost about fifty percent (50%) less to operate than the same size electric unit. So natural gas can save you 2. LOOK AT WHIRLPOOL! EVERYONE KNOWS THE WHIRLPOOL NAME ... IT IS CONSIDERED A LEADER IN THE CENTRAL GAS AIR CONDITIONING FIELD TOO. 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CITY /AMI Hieronymus said in a telephone interview that the epidemic had caused a rise in (he last two weeks in the price of corn to be delivered next December from $1.25 a bushel to $1.42'^ a bushel which he termed "quite a good-sized rise." He said he had received reports that 90 per cent of the corn fields in southern Illinois had become infected by the blight and that there have been reports that the disease had spread into Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. Burnel! Kraft, president of the Tabor Grain Co. in Decatur. 111., said "the infestation of the blight in our immediate area is pretty significant but I'm not sure anyone has any factual information on it yet." Jack Yakcy, an 111 i n o i s grain farmer, said the blight, is "bothering the corn quite a bit." He said central Illinois has yet. to be hit hard by the fungus but that the fields in the southern part of the state have been heavily infected by the blight. 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