Corn stunt

Corn stunt is caused by the spiroplasma Spiroplasma kunkelii and is transmitted by leafhoppers (for more information, see corn stunt leafhoppers).

Nature of damage

  • Infected plants are stunted due to shortening of internodes and numerous, barren ear shoots develop.
  • Plants can be completely barren or suffer from poor seed set and reduced ear size.
  • Under severe infection, plants can die prematurely.


  • Infected plants show a range of symptoms depending on maize genotype.
  • Typically the first symptoms include chlorosis of leaf margins, followed by reddening or purpling of older leaves.

Factors favoring development

  • Continuous maize cultivation
  • Disease is prevalent where leafhoppers are able to overwinter in mild climatic conditions.

Geographic distribution

  • Corn stunt is common throughout the hot and humid lowlands of Central and South America, the Caribbean and the southern United States.
  • The disease has also been recorded from elevations more than 2000 m above sea level.

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