Friday, June 5, 2009

Floppy Corn Syndrome


"The curious phenomenon referred to as "floppy corn syndrome" reared (or lowered, as it were) its ugly head in some fields in Indiana and Ohio back in early June. The term "floppy corn" simply describes a young (V5 to V8) plant that has fallen over because of the absence of an established nodal root system at the crown of the plant. Affected plants may survive if the mesocotyl remains intact long enough for subsequent nodes of roots to establish themselves in moist soil. If the mesocotyl breaks before subsequent establishment of additional nodal roots, the plant dies. The causes of the poor nodal root development have been debated for years and, indeed, likely vary from situation to situation."

I created crappy corn with floppy corn syndrome. Oh my wife and good friends always say Ed you worry too much, your crops always turn out good. True, but as a farmer and consultant I am striving for better. That is our job, isn't it?

I think most of my floppy corn syndrome is due to my herbicide, acetochlor, sold generic as Volley and better known as Harness, Keystone and so many other brand names that are basically acetochlor, a cousin to alachlor and metalochlor found by Monsanto and others decades ago.

Basically it prunes the roots and the weeds die. Given the wrong recipe as noted in Crappy Corn by Bob Neilsen at Purdue, it does the same thing to corn.

It did it to my corn this year! That 2 inch storm on saturated soil bent too many of the plants over for my satisfaction. Oh the joy of harvesting floppy corn if it makes it that far!

Those nodes on the corn plants I damaged with chemical will be there all year. You get this skinny joint between the tall heavy plant trying to produce and hang an ear with the pruned roots that are trying to recover.

My sweet corn right beside my floppy corn is a good example. It is fairly healthy because it has no acetochlor and is taller than half my field corn. I till between the rows to control the weeds and don't depend on herbicide to control the weeds in the sweet corn.

Why don't you raise your corn like you do your sweetcorn you ask so you don't have floppy corn. We left the tillage, rotary hoeing and cultivating years ago in our corn because most years it doesn't turn out like this.

If you can raise organic corn for that small market, you can do it the old fashioned way. The marketplace only pays for high yields and the non-organic corn usually produces yield two times larger than the old fashioned way.

So, I am stuck with my floppy corn, a big old plant with limited roots and stalk to hold it up.

Chemicals are great until they damage the crop they are intended to protect.

Reminds me of the herbicide school I attended decades ago. They had pot after pot of corn sprayed with every labeled chemical compared to corn with no chemical. Every treated pot had smaller root mass than the control pot with no chemical.

How does the corn look in your area?

Ed

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