Corn Depth: How Low Should You Go?

Categories: PLANTING, CORN
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​​​​​​​Golden Harvest Sales Rep Abbi Hawkins talks about the optimal planting depth for corn and the season-long impact it has at the Columbia Agronomy in Action site.
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Planting depth for corn seeds is a critical factor that has season-long implications. We developed trials at our Columbia, MO, Agronomy in Action site to determine the optimal planting depth based on crop performance throughout the season. So far, we’ve seen some interesting findings.
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Here’s What We’ve Seen
  • 0.5-0.75” planting depth: These corn plants were first to emerge, though sporadically. Emergence was quick for some plants, but since the depth was too shallow, it took longer for all plants to emerge. The uneven emergence caused competition for sunlight with some of the taller plants eventually shading the shorter ones.
  • 2” planting depth: Uniform emergence occurred around 6-8 hours after the 0.5-0.75”-planted corn emerged, preventing the corn from competing with itself for sunlight.
  • 3” planting depth: Emergence occurred around the same time as the 2”-planted corn, but the plants used more energy, soil nutrients and water to emerge because of the deeper depth.

Why 2” is the Optimal Planting Depth
  • Soil stability: Moisture and temperature are more stable at 2”, especially in the spring when temperatures can vary widely. Stability gives corn seedlings the best opportunity for a strong start.
  • Root stability: Underground nodal roots have optimal space for growth. This creates a better anchoring system and leads to stronger stands.
  • Nutrient and water uptake: Nodal roots developing at 2” are best positioned to absorb water and nutrients. At shallower depths, nodal roots may grow toward the soil surface, limiting their ability to draw water, nutrients from within the soil profile and act as an anchoring system.
  • Chemical layer: Herbicides and other inputs are adequately diluted by rainwater before reaching the seed. If too shallow, seeds can absorb very thinly-diluted chemicals, be injured and possibly die. 

For corn seeds that are bred to perform well even in the most difficult of environments, consider planting Golden Harvest® corn hybrids for the upcoming growing season. Golden Harvest hybrids can overcome some of the challenges experienced by too shallow or too deep planting depths and still produce good yields. 

Contact your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for additional insights.

Photos are either the property of Syngenta or used under agreement.

Syngenta hereby disclaims liability for third-party websites.

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