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Corn Rootworm Damage Not Only Cause of 'Hooked' Plants

Corn Rootworm Damage Not Only Cause of 'Hooked' Plants
Wind and other causes than rootworm may contribute to 'hooked' or 'elbowed' plants as well.

There were no down plants in a field harvested in mid-November, just a few days ago. That's zero lodging. However, in a few parts of the field, particularly on lighter soils, there were some plants where the ears hung out about a foot from the rest of the row. Maybe it was a stalk here and there, maybe it was a couple in a row. The ears were normal size, and the plant was still standing, supporting the ear.

Elbowed stalks or not: If stalks are elbowed or 'hooked' in some places and standing straight in others, it might not be a big factor, but might be worth noting for future review.

Nate Linder, in charge of the Meigs Farm, a part of Purdue University's Throckmorton Ag Center, calls it hooking. You might call it elbowing. However, elbowing typically brings up and image of a whole field of plants that are deformed just above the ground level, with stalks growing off to one side. If wind caused it, they're usually going one direction.

In this case, noticing the "hooking" makes good notes to keep in records, either handwritten or in computer files. Since there were two hybrids and both showed some of it, it didn't appear to be hybrid-related.

Related: Who Needs the Corn Rootworm Trait and Who Doesn't Need It

Since it showed up more on lighter soils, was it related to soil type? That's sheer conjecture at this point. There is nothing scientific about these types of observations.

The only sure way to know if it was rootworm damage would be to have done root digs in mid-season. You could still dig rootballs now, but deciding what's a scar from rootworm feeding and what's an injury to a root from some other factor could be very difficult.

The best advice might be to file the notes, take adequate protection against rootworm next year as you typically do, and keep an eye out for it next season.

Related: Check Out Monsanto's New App for Corn Rootworm Management

Linder believes it was likely due to wind damage during some severe storms early in the season. Perhaps roots weren't as deep as in some years because there was plenty of moisture early.

The conclusion is it's not a big deal, but it's worth noting.

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