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Protect Corn Crop from Fallow Syndrome

Categories: PLANTING, CORN

The 2019 crop challenges may present more difficulties in 2020. Last year’s wet conditions led to flooded ground and millions of prevent plant acres. Generally found in fields that had no crops growing in them the previous year, fallow corn syndrome is a condition to watch for this season.

Symptoms of Fallow Syndrome
Impacted corn plants will show the following symptoms:

  • Phosphorus and zinc deficiency
  • Severely stunted plants with short internodes
  • Purple, yellow or light green color leaves

Root growth can also be affected, and depending on the severity of the symptoms, can cause yield loss.

​​​The picture on the left shows the short, stunted plants and purple leaves associated with phosphorus deficiency as a result of this field only having turnips sowed later the previous summer. The picture on the right is from the same field; however, this portion of the field had soybeans planted the previous year, which is why the corn appears greener, healthier and taller.

​​​​​​​What Causes Fallow Syndrome in Corn?
Fallow corn syndrome is a result of reduced beneficial fungi in the soil due to flooding, weed control and previously unplanted fields. The fungi, called Vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM), have a symbiotic relationship with corn and wheat, and they will invade root systems and move between cells. They serve as an extension of the corn root, expanding the root’s surface area to assist in the uptake of water and nutrients, especially phosphorus and zinc. In exchange, the fungi receive nutrients from the roots, allowing them to continue to grow and develop and assist the corn plant with nutrient uptake.

When there is no plant growth for an extended period of time, populations of VAM are reduced. These fungi need actively growing roots to survive, including most root tissues and weed species.

The corn to the left was prevent plant that had a cover crop of turnips planted in late summer; The corn to the right is where soybeans were planted. Source - Syngenta

Managing Fallow Syndrome
While not a lot can be done to correct fallow syndrome in season, affected corn fields will eventually recover as the summer progresses and VAM populations increase. Yield losses, if any, can vary depending on the severity and length of crop symptoms.

There are preventive measures that can be taken in case of flooding or previously unplanted fields. An application of phosphorus in a band may reduce symptoms, even in fields where levels are high. The phosphorus must be placed in a band close to the small, developing roots, as broadcast applications will not help.

If fields are affected by flooding or are not able to be planted, planting a cover crop can help alleviate symptoms of fallow corn syndrome by providing VAM with rooting tissues to complete their lifecycle and keep populations high. Not all cover crops are beneficial hosts for VAM, however. Brassicas, like turnips and radishes, are poor hosts and do not help maintain adequate VAM levels in the soil.

For more information on managing prevent plant acres, contact your local Golden Harvest Seed Advisor.

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

Syngenta hereby disclaims liability for third-party websites.


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