Corn School: Learning from 2019 plant roots

When it comes to corn production, is 2019 a year to forget or a year to remember? For RealAgriculture’s Peter Johnson, it’s a year to learn.

On this episode of RealAgriculture Corn School we catch up with Johnson at Diagnostic Days at Ridgetown College, University of Guelph, where our resident agronomist is busy digging up corn plants to assess the impact of planting conditions on root development and seedling growth.

In what researchers consider some of the worst planting conditions anyone can remember in the Ridgetown College test plots, Johnson looks at how wet conditions can lead to an open slot in the seed trench, which tricks seeds into setting crown roots deeper in the ground. Typically, the crown is set at three-quarters of an inch below the soil surface, but as Johnson demonstrates, when the slot is left open, the seed sees light immediately after germination. This causes the coleoptile to emerge prematurely and set the crown as deep as two and three-quarters of an inch.

Johnson also discusses the power and resilience of corn roots as he spies a plant suffering from hatchet roots. He demonstrates how some roots have managed to find fractures in the smeared sidewalls to push and power their way out of the seed trench to expand the plant’s root system.

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