The Q&A Archives: Torn Leaves on Corn

Question: I am a first timer at this. My corn is about 2ft tall now and the center leaves look healthy and intact. The outer leaves are green, but look as though a knife has put slats in them. Why is this? Is this normal? How tall will it grow? It is "Peaches & Cream" corn.

Answer: Based on your description of the damage, it is difficult to give you a definite diagnosis. It is possible that corn billbugs are at work, especially since you have a new garden. (Billbugs often attack corn in gardens which were pasture or lawn the year before.) Billbug larvae eat the roots and bore into the stems and the adults occasionally perforate the unfolding leaves. Have you had any severe weather in the last few weeks? It is also possible that heavy winds and rains damaged the leaves. If the new growth looks green and healthy, the the plants are probably OK. If the new growth is affected, then you may have a pest at work.

Leaf feeding can be the work of a number of pests. If you think you have an insect problem, you may wish to try to identify the culprit by taking a sample to the County Extension office for identification and control recommendations, if any. As part of your sample, look carefully for any insects, especially in the whorls. You should also cut off a damaged plant just below a whorl and look for worms inside the plant.

To help prevent the problem in the future, be sure to remove and destroy the corn debris in the fall, cultivate the soil during the fall to disturb the overwintering pests, and rotate your crops every year.

And most corn grows to a height of 5 to 6 feet tall. Good luck with your new garden!

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