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Corn Leaf Oddity No Cause for AlarmCorn Leaf Oddity No Cause for Alarm

Ragged leaf edges now won't affect yield later.

Tom Bechman 1

July 13, 2009

3 Min Read

Farmers scouting fields are noting things that look abnormal. Sometimes they turn out to be something worth worrying about, many times they don't. One of those in the 'not to worry' category is apparently ragged leaf edges. Reports of this phenomenon are cropping up here and there over the past couple of weeks.

Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, says it's another one of those things that shouldn't affect yield. With so many things to worry about, including tight crop margins and whether or not to spray fungicides, noting leaf edges that are ragged or appear torn is one you can file away and not concern yourself with, he notes.

Some sources have suspected insect damage. Others believes it's wind damage. Sometimes one edge of a leaf is affected, sometimes both edges. Nielsen describes it as "looking like someone was making paper dolls and didn't do a very good job of cutting them out."

There appears to be a genetic tie to this symptom. Some hybrids express it more than others. But the bottom line is that it's harmless, as far as Nielsen knows.

What's not quite as clear is what causes it. His best guess is that a leaf deep in the whorl becomes sticky, or stuck so to speak, and in unfurling as corn grows rapidly, wind sup with jagged edges.

Tom Jordan, Purdue weed control specialist, explains that corn comes out of the whorl during this grand growth phase much like coming out of a periscope. The growing point pushed leaves up inside the whorl. As they reach the top, they unfurl.

Jordan recently examined a totally different condition- corn damaged by what appears to be severe nitrogen burn from an over-the-top application. "Even though drops are used, if there ground is rolling there can be enough up and down action with the booms to get nitrogen splashing up on the corn," he says.

Like ragged edge syndrome, Jordan expects the corn will grow out of it with little or no damage. The only exception might be in cases where the leaves might stick together form decaying tissue, preventing leaves still coming out from unfurling properly. As long as that's not the case, the field should recover in good shape, he concludes.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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