Lodging in Corn and Other Cereal Crops – Cause & Cure

Q.  Do you have any tips on how to keep corn from lodging?  I generally hill up the dirt about 4-5 inches when the plants are about 18 inches tall. It helps but the problem still persists if we get a big wind, especially if I have just watered.
 
A.  There are actually two problems included in his question. 
 
First, lodging is when corn stalks or other cereal grain stalks break easily.  This condition is caused by a deficiency in Potassium!  Feed your crop properly, using the Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed mixes, and you won’t have problems with lodging.
 
Second, if a crop suffers from weak stalks because of potassium deficiency, it will fall over and break when a strong wind blows.  However, corn, and to a lesser degree all the cereal grains, are susceptible to being hurt by strong winds – even if their stocks are strong.  This is because a tall stand of corn is almost solid, and catches the wind like a sail.
 
So, if a very strong wind blows across your rows of corn, it may very well bend them over, especially if it is shortly after you have watered, because watering softens the soil and allows the roots to be pulled out more easily (think of harvesting carrots immediately after watering).
 
When your corn has been knocked over by the wind, if it’s not too far – only 45 degrees or less – it may stand up again by itself in a few days. 
 
In back-yard gardens you can help it to stand up by watering, then lifting it up, placing baling twine against it about 3′ from the ground, and wrapping the baling twine around tall stakes you’ve driven into the ground at the peak of the ridges at intervals of every 3 or 4 feet. 
 
Even if you don’t get it straight up, giving it this much help will usually be enough for it to straighten up the rest of the way.  And be careful that you don’t pull the roots out of the soil in the process!
 
It’s important to get it standing again if you can, because when it bends over, the distribution of the pollen from the tassels to the silk is often substantially reduced, and your corn yield will be seriously affected.