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Corn Plants Struggle to Survive Too Much Water

Crop Watch 2014: Plants are missing, but the survivors are very green

Tom Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

July 31, 2014

2 Min Read

If you look at the photo and don't know the history of this small, low spot within a much larger cornfield, you will think that there are so many plants missing the population will be low and yield will be low, too.

That's probably true, but the real story is how as many plants survived as they did. And why are they so green today when they were once yellow?


If you've followed along with our Crop Watch '14 updates, this is the same spot that was virtually covered in water with only leaves sticking out earlier in the season. The waters receded, several plants survived, and then took on a yellowish cast. Was the nitrogen gone, too, or were soils still too saturated and short on oxygen that plants couldn't get the nitrogen?

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Based on this photo, there seem to be two conclusions. Crop consultant Danny Greene of Greene Crop Consulting, Franklin, and Dave Nanda, consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc. seem to agree with these conclusions.

First, sometimes no plants survive when the water covers an area like a blanket, as water did in this spot. Likely, cooler -than-normal weather – instead of beating sun and high temperatures while water was over the plants – aided survival.

The absence of crazy top is a puzzle for Greene. The classic case and cause of crazy top is thought to be when plants are infected while either sitting underwater or in saturated soils early in the season.

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Second, was the nitrogen gone? It might have appeared that way when the plants turned yellow. Now it appears that at least a good share remained in the soil. Once soils were no longer saturated, plants that remained utilized it. As far as color, they are as dark green as any other plants in the field. Deciding that the nitrogen was gone when the plants began turning yellow early would likely have been jumping to conclusions.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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