Above is a photograph sent to me by B. D. Fontenot. I forwarded it to Dr. Groth who identified the disease as Black Kernel. It is a fairly common fungal disease generally regarded as a minor problem. For some reason this year there is quite a bit showing up and the rainy weather will probably make it worse. I noticed some in our field in Cameron parish but it was scattered and much lighter than shown in these panicles.
It should not be confused with Kernel Smut which also causes black kernels. The smut fungus actually invades the grain and replaces it becoming visible when it begins to ooze out between the hulls. Black Kernel attacks from the outside and covers the grain completely.
Dr. Groth said he has seen False Smut too. This one causes the development of very conspicuous greenish masses in the panicle. They change from greenish to bright orange with maturity.