The Q&A Archives: Short Corn Stalks

Question: I plant Illini Extra Sweet corn in my garden. For the past 3 years some of the corn will grow fine but the rest will be yellow and short. I have used a 12-12-12 fertilizer for the past 2 years and it gets plenty of water and sun. The rest of the plants in my garden grow just fine with no problems. I am wondering what the problem is and how I can fix it.

Answer: Actually, it sounds like a phosphorous deficiency. Phosphorous deficiencies show up as slow/decreased plant growth. The nutrient may be lacking because there is not enough available in the soil or, it is in a form that is unavailable to the plants. To solve the problem, fertilize the corn with a fertilizer with a higher phosphorous count than usual (phosphorous is the second number in the analysis, for example, in a 5-10-10, the second 10 is the amount of phosphorous). You could try an 8-10-8, carefully following package instructions. Also, it would greatly benefit the corn to add some organic material to the soil such as compost, composted cow manure, fish emulsion, etc. You might want to have your soil tested for nutrient levels and, especially, pH--the soil's relative acidity can affect nutrient uptake. (Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for soil test kits.)

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