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Rootless Corn Syndrome


This spring, unlike the last few years, has been very dry in some parts of the state. Other areas have had more than they wished for.

Unfortunately, reports about rootless corn are coming in from areas all around the state. The orange areas in the map below indicate the areas that have had the least rainfall for the last 30 days. The data comes from the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service which utilizes a combination of radar and official observer reports.

Developing corn roots do not handle dry soil very well and in some cases will just stop growing. There is an extremely critical phase of early corn development,  at about the 3-5 leaf stage the corn plant expects to shift support of the plant from the seminal(seed) roots to the new nodal roots that are emerging from the crown of the plant. Occasionally in dry conditions, the deeper moisture that enabled the seed to germinate is no longer present close to the soil surface where the nodal roots are developing. The seminal roots may be keeping the plant alive but as rapid growth starts the seminal roots cannot keep up with demand. This is why for many farmers in this predicament their first sign of a problem is corn "rolling" or wilting on hot afternoons.

As the plants grow above ground without the nodal roots for support the plants may fall over and exhibit "floppy corn syndrome.

In addition to dry soil some of the plants we are seeing appear to have developed their crown too close to the surface for good root growth and support. Emerson Nafziger say we don't know definitively why this happens but rapid growth and soil subsidence may play a role in the cause. Emerson's thoughts about the issue are explained further in a news release issued this morning and also in "the Bulletin".


.http://extension.illinois.edu/photolib/lib2045//midsize/IllinoisCorn.jpg


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