Get to the Roots to Maximize Corn Yields

Taking a look at how the corn roots grow under different conditions can provide valuable insight into choosing the right hybrids and making necessary management changes.

Do you know the type of roots your corn is growing? The answer can affect your corn’s water and nutrient uptake, nutrient placement, corn population and row spacing.

Monte Bottens, farmer and CEO of ANP Inc. in Moline, Ill., told attendees at the 2016 National No-Tillage Conference about the different types of corn root structures, how to identify your corn’s root types and how to adjust your management for better roots. 

Know the Types

After conducting more than 1,600 root evaluations, ANP agronomist Mike Petersen has identified four major corn root types (see figure 1).

The first one Bottens calls the “carrot-shaped” root, as it has narrow shoulders — growing around 8-10 inches wide — and deep roots.

“There’s a little less root mass compared to others in this top foot of soil, but the roots that go deep to access water are many,” he says. “Normally we’ll get most of all 60 potential nodal roots expressed and they’ll go 6 feet plus.”

This type is often found in hybrids adapted for the west, he adds, and can handle hot and dry weather. It’s primarily seen in Monsanto genetics, particularly the DroughtGard brand, and is ideal for narrow-row systems because there will be less competition in the topsoil.

The second type of root structure, Bottens explains, is one that is referred to as “an umbrella structure with stringers.”

The shoulders are medium in size, extending about 10-12 inches out from the stalk. It also features several roots that reach…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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