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Northern Illinois Agriculture

University of Illinois Extension
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Standing water

Posted by Russel Higgins - Corn

Rainfall in northern Illinois for the preceding four days has ranged from less than ΒΌ inch to 5+ inches. While standing water is not currently an issue at the NIARC it is for others in our area. Flooded and saturated soils cause anoxic conditions (limited oxygen) for the plants and importantly, the root systems.

Dr. Bob Nielsen at Purdue authored an article on the "Effects of Flooding or Ponding on Young Corn", the 2011 article can be found in its entirety at the following URL

Excerpts from the article shared the following generalizations. I'm careful to state "generalizations" because I am one who has been burned by a recommendation that I once made on a ponded field, stating with almost certainty that the corn would not survive. In fact, the water receded and the field dried comparatively quickly, the corn survived and yielded in the 160's. I am reminded of this annually whenever I interact with the farmer. So, there are few absolutes but;

  • Plants that are completely submerged is at higher risk than those that are partially submerged.
  • The longer an area remains ponded, the higher the risk of plant death.
    • Most agronomists believe that young corn can survive up to about 4 days of outright ponding if temperatures are relatively cool (mid-60's F or cooler); fewer days if temperatures are warm (mid-70's F or warmer).
    • Soil oxygen is depleted within about 48 hours of soil saturation. Without oxygen, the plants cannot perform critical life sustaining functions; e.g. nutrient and water uptake is impaired and root growth is inhibited.
  • The greater the deposition of mud or old crop residues on plants as the water subsides, the greater the stress on the plants due to reduced photosynthesis.
    • Ironically, such situations would benefit from another rainfall event to wash the mud deposits from the leaves.
  • Corn younger than about V6 (six fully exposed leaf collars) is more susceptible to ponding damage than is corn older than V6.

The survivability of the seedling can be determined by examining the color of the growing point of the corn plant. The radicle (root) and coleoptile (shoot) should appear white or cream colored. Surviving plants usually resume growth within three to five days after the water recedes.

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