Ohio State expert says rootless corn can recover

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Rootless or "floppy" corn might look questionable, but under the right conditions, it can recover.

Corn crops that are leaning or lodged might be impacted by rootless corn syndrome, said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. OSU Extension is the statewide outreach arm of the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Rootless corn occurs when there is limited nodal root development, Thomison said. Plants exhibiting rootless corn symptoms are often leaning or lodged.

"The condition, typically caused by dry soil conditions under hot temperatures and windy days, is generally seen in plants from about the three-leaf stage to the eight-leaf stage of development," Thomison said. "Growers with impacted fields will see plants that have fallen over after a strong wind because there is a limited number or no nodal roots supporting them."

In addition to dry soils, rootless corn is caused by shallow plantings, compacted soils and loose or cloddy soil conditions, he said.

"Nodal roots are very sensitive to high temperatures," Thomison said. "Hot, dry conditions prevent nodal roots from growing."

But, he said, these plants can recover.

"I'd tell growers not to panic or tear up the field," Thomison said. "The plants just need a good rain to help generate nodal root development.

"Give the plants some time and after the next rain and cooler temperatures, take another look at the plants. The cooler temperatures and rain will help tremendously."

Growers can also help alleviate rootless corn by cultivating the plants that are still standing by throwing soil around the exposed roots, he said.

Some Ohio growers have reported experiencing this condition this year, Thomison said.

"So far, it's been a very localized problem, but I suspect other fields had this issue but may have recovered before it was noticed," he said.

Growers should take note, however, that affected corn maybe vulnerable to root potential lodging issues at maturity, he said.

"In that case, the corn should be harvested as soon as grain moisture conditions allow," Thomison said.

As of the week ending June 15, 94 percent of corn was emerged in Ohio, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service. That compares to 97 percent that had emerged by the same time last year and 93 percent that had emerged on average during the same time period over the past five years, the agency said.

There were 3.9 days suitable for fieldwork in Ohio during the week ending June 15, the federal agriculture agency said.

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