The Root of the Matter

Corn root training image

Crop roots are an essential lifeline to higher yields. Beyond foundational structure and support, roots provide crops vital food and water intake that allow plants to thrive. During the growing season, growers constantly monitor plants for color, height, shape, position, proximity, etc. to gauge plant health and developmental progress. On a single corn plant, there are about 20 leaves to evaluate. But below ground, tens of thousands of tiny roots are at work that have the potential to contribute to higher yields and profitability.

Several factors including soil type, weather systems in a growing season, as well as the specific hybrid influence how deep roots will grow. Corn root depths vary with each of these conditions but can penetrate 3-4 feet deep reaching depths of 6-7 feet deep or more and two feet across in certain conditions. 

Roots need to grow downwardly as opposed to primarily laterally. Avoiding or amending soil compaction allows downward root growth. Several factors can contribute to improved or advanced root development. Certain anatomical traits may make nutrient capture more efficient for the plant. Optimal root development occurs when plants develop at a metabolic rate that doesn’t overtax the plant, detracting from plant health and grain development.