Why You Should Know Early Stages of Corn Development

Base decisions on actual growth stage when applying nitrogen, inspecting for insect damage or determining if the corn still meets requirements of herbicide labels.

Published on: May 10, 2012

Let's focus on the seedling stage of the corn plant. If we know growth stages, we can plan field operations better.

Most hybrids have 18 to 22 leaves based on relative maturity. How do we measure stages of maturity?

The collar method is most common. Count the number of leaves with collars which develop when the leaf partially unclasps the stem. A leaf collar is the light-colored band at the base of the leaf. It includes the first emerging, round-tipped leaf.

It takes 100 to 120 growing degree days from planting to seedling emergence. The growing point is 1 to 1.5 inches below the surface. Seminal roots supply water and nutrients to the seedling. This is the VF stage.

STAGE CORN: Learning how to stage corn makes it easier to know how to follow herbicide labels. (Photo courtesy Bob Nielsen, Purdue University)
STAGE CORN: Learning how to stage corn makes it easier to know how to follow herbicide labels. (Photo courtesy Bob Nielsen, Purdue University)

The growing point stays below ground for three to four weeks. Radical and seminal roots grow, and then secondary roots known as nodal roots get started. These grow from nodes below the ground. The first node above the ground is usually the fifth node.

More stages

V1 - You will see a thumb-shaped leaf. IF the collar isn't visible, don't include it in staging the plant

V2 - There are two visible collars, generally about 7 to 10 days after emergence. Roots elongate.

V3-V5 - A plant with four leaves with collars is at the fourth leaf stage even though there may be six or seven visible leaves. By V5, ear leaf and shoot start to develop, and tassel is initiated. Plants may be 8 to 9 inches tall, but the growing point is just near ground level.

(Nanda is an independent crops consultant based in Indianapolis, Ind., and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. Reach him at:  Nanda@seedconsultants.com or call 317-910-9876.)