We are starting to see some corn plants exhibiting “Rootless Corn Syndrome.” Yes, this can be a real problem in corn and although the name seems odd, it a very accurate description.
Corn needs to be planted approximately two inches deep to help ensure that the nodal root system forms properly. Nodal roots are the “anchor roots” that help hold the plant down. If the area where nodal roots form is at the soil surface or above the soil surface, the needed nodal roots won’t develop.
In our situation this year, shallow planting was not likely the factor that is leading to rootless corn. In most situations, corn was planted approximately two inches deep, but heavy rains over the last few weeks have eroded the raised beds down enough that now our effective planting depth is shallow, too shallow for nodal roots to form properly. It is striking sometimes walking across a field to see that one row is fine, but the next row has a high percentage of plants showing rootless corn syndrome.
Differences in planter depth or softness or hardness of a bed can lead to a lot of variability in the number of plants with rootless corn syndrome. If the planter was planting on the edge of the bed, this makes the problem worse. Twin-row planting can sometimes cause more problems because both rows tend to end up on the edge of the bed.