Farm Progress

Commentary: You can kill weeds in corn, but not corn in corn!

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

January 25, 2017

2 Min Read
WORSE THAN A WEED! The truth is, you would be better off with a giant ragweed plant growing in this spot instead of a late-emerging corn plant. You could spray and kill the ragweed.

For years we’ve written stories stressing the need for doing whatever it takes so corn stands emerge uniformly. 2016 National Corn Growers Association yield champion Randy Dowdy, Valdosata, Ga., is nearly a fanatic about uniform emergence. In his case, the result is not only national winning yields over 500 bushels per acre, but also an average farm yield just under 370 bushels per acre.

Many times we’ve quoted Dave Nanda and others saying that late-emerging corn plants wind up acting like weeds. Nanda, a plant breeder, is also a crops consultant. He says corn plants that emerge even a day later than their neighbors on either side often lag behind, many times never producing a harvestable ear. These late plants rob nutrients that could be used by plants producing ears that contribute to yield.

It was only recently during a conversation with Nanda that he made this statement: “A late-emerging corn plant that never develops an ear is actually worse than a weed.”

Worse than a weed? What is he talking about? Finally, the light bulb went off!

“You can kill weeds with postemergence herbicides if you have weed escapes in corn once it’s up,” Nanda says. “But you can’t kill those late-emerging corn plants that act like weeds. There is no way to take them out without damaging the rest of the corn crop. You’re stuck with them for the rest of the season.”

Worse than a weed — that’s a strong statement. But his logic is solid. Despite all of our modern technology, there is no practical way to take out corn plants of the same hybrid and not harm the remaining plants. So, they absorb sunlight and take up water and nutrients all season long without producing any benefit.

Maybe you’ve already figured that out. It was a revelation to me. It’s just another reason to make sure you do all you can to produce uniformly emerging corn stands.


About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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