The Q&A Archives: Purple Leaves/Short Corn Stalks

Question: When I plant my sweet corn (I rotate planting area), it only grows to a height of approx. 2' and the leaves are purple. My garden was formerly a corn/soybean/wheat field but that was 7 years ago. The family is hungry for some good corn! P.S. My husband says its a potassium deficiency, is it? If so, how do I treat?

Answer: Actually, it sounds like a phosphorous deficiency...hubby was close! Phosphorous deficiencies show up as slow/decreased plant growth with leaves that are purple or have purple veining. Sound familiar? The nutrient may be lacking because it 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, ina 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.) Your family will be munching on that corn in no time!

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