The Q&A Archives: Corn Falling Over

Question: We plant sweet corn every year. We seem to have a problem with corn falling over usually when the corn is about 2-3 feet tall. The plants are beautiful. The roots look good. My husband fertilizes using Miracle Grow. We water the garden if there is less than an inch of rain during the week. We plant in blocks...about four different kinds. When the spring storms come or even just a regular windy day, some of the corn will fall over. We have really noticed it with Silver Queen. Is there something we can do to make the roots stronger or encourage the anchor roots to grow faster? Does it depend on the variety?

Answer: Corn lodging can really affect the harvest by interferring with pollination and photosynthesis. (Corn stalks that are bent to the side tend to shed pollen from only part of the tassels, and sunlight cannot reach the leaves on the downward side of the stalk.) Some hybrids are more prone to lodging than others, simply because of their rate of growth. Soil compaction is a contributing factor, as are hot, dry soils during root development. Brace roots develop from the seventh leaf node from the base of the plant. If root development is hindered, plants are more likely to lodge after heavy rain and wind storms. Try amending your soil with lots of aged-manure or compost. Dig or till it in deeply prior to sowing your corn seed. Then water thoroughly during the growing season, especially when the roots and brace roots are developing. To make sure you're applying enough water, dig down into the soil to make sure the entrie root zone is getting wet. If it's any consolation, farmers deal with this problem nearly every year. There's no absolute solution, but you can try to reduce soil compaction as suggested above, and make sure you're applying adequate water to the growing stalks. Better luck next year!

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