Corn School: Helping seedlings survive cement-like soils

Ontario’s corn crop — such that it is — is pretty much planted, as most growers are now turning their focus to soybeans.

Across the province during the past month, corn was planted into a range of wet, miserable conditions. The question now is how will the seedlings handle the tough going and what can growers do to help root systems as the plants fight their way through soil conditions ranging from water-logged to hardened cement?

In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Corn School, Peter Johnson and Bernard Tobin travel across planted cornfields to provide a snapshot of what growers are facing and offer tips on how they can help their crop win the war with the weather. Johnson takes a close look at root systems and explains how corn’s seminal roots fuel early development up to five leaves. These roots then die and secondary roots take over.

At this stage, however, Johnson fears that much of the crop may be in trouble as widespread hard, dry, concrete-like soil conditions could prohibit growth of secondary roots required to power the crop through the remainder of the season. (Story continues after the video.)

What can growers do? Johnson has a few ideas. He says inter-row cultivation, including using a rotary hoe, is an option. Growers can also learn from research work done in Lambton County that shows a significant yield boost when growers used an anhydrous applicator to open soil and inject air to improve root movement — simply turn off the anhydrous and run the knives down the row, explains Johnson.

Growers should also pay close attention to soil nitrogen release and consider applying more nitrogen to improve plant vigour.

Click here for more Corn School episodes.

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