The Q&A Archives: Early Corn Tasseling

Question: We planted Ruby Red corn this year and it is 2-3 feet tall and tasseling already. Is this normal? Will it grow any taller? Thank you for your help with this question.

Answer: Corn that hasn't reached it's full height before tasseling out usually indicates the plants are under stress. (The goal of any species is to procreate, so when under stress, plants try to blossom and set seed before they die.) Corn is a heavy feeder, and requires a lot of water. Seeds germinate best in soils that are at least 60F degrees, so planting your seed too early in the season, or in soils that are cold and clammy, may explain the poor growth rate. Corn will respond favorably to being planted in an area where previous crops included beans, alfalfa, or clover. These crops fix nitrogen in the soil, and corn needs an ample amount of nitrogen. Alternatives are to work compost or aged manure into the soil prior to planting. Spread 3-4 inches of organic matter over the planting bed and work it in to a depth of 10-12 inches. Finally, corn needs about one-inch of water per week during the growing season. Soaker hoses may or may not provide the deep, thorough watering corn plants need. Check your application rate by digging down into the soil to see how far the water penetrates. It should thoroughly wet the root mass of the plants. To help your corn crop next season, plant a nitrogen-fixing cover crop this fall, and turn it over in the spring prior to planting. Wait until the soil is warm, plant your seeds, and provide ample water. Use a fish-based fertilizer when the stalks are 6-inches tall, and feed again when they're 18-20 inches tall.

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