Yellow Corn Leaves: Why Corn Plant Leaves Turn Yellow

Corn is one of the most popular crops in the home garden. Not only is it delicious, but it’s amazing when all goes well. Because the life we lead is unpredictable, even with the best plans, you can see that your corn plants have yellow leaves. What causes the leaves of maize plants to turn yellow and how do you treat yellowing maize plants?

Help, my corn plant is turning yellow!

We have been growing corn for a few years with varying degrees of success. I attribute this to our generally cool summers and the fact that the huge pines in the garden block most of our sun in the vegetable garden. That’s why last year we grew corn in containers in the garden in full sunshine. Bingo! Of course, this year we decided to grow our maize in containers again. Everything was going well until almost overnight we noticed that the maize leaves turned yellow.
So I used the handy Internet to find out why my maize plant turned yellow and I learned that there were some possibilities.
First of all, corn is one of the heaviest foods in the garden. The yellow leaves of corn are probably an indicator that the crop is deficient in certain nutrients, usually nitrogen. Corn is a grass, and grasses feed on nitrogen. The plant moves nitrogen up the stalk, so a nitrogen deficiency is indicated by the yellowing of the corn leaves at the base of the plant. A soil test can help you determine if your plants are low in nitrogen. The solution is to dress sideways with a high-nitrogen fertilizer.
Cold weather can also cause maize leaves to turn yellow. Again, this is due to a lack of nitrogen. When the soil is cool and wet, maize has difficulty absorbing nitrogen from the soil. So this does not mean that there is no nitrogen in the soil, just that the poor plants are too cold to absorb it effectively. The good news is that if the cold weather is to blame, plants will grow from this yellowing as the climate warms.
A lack of water also causes yellow leaves. Corn needs a lot of water, at least once a week and, depending on the weather, even every day. This was a likely case for the yellowing of our maize, since it was grown in a container and received full sunlight for most of the day.
Diseases such as corn dwarf mosaic virus can also cause leaf yellowing in combination with stunted growth. This disease is spread by aphids hiding in nearby weeds, such as Johnson’s grass. Once the plants are infected, it’s all over. Remove and destroy the canes and sterilize any tools or work gloves that have been in contact with them.
Nematodes can also contribute to the yellowing of corn leaves. Again, this is related to a lack of nutrients. Nematodes, microscopic roundworms, live in the soil and attach themselves to the roots of the plant, preventing the plant from absorbing enough nutrients.

Treatment of yellow corn plants

If the soil test indicates a lack of nitrogen, apply a high nitrogen fertilizer when the plants have 8-10 leaves and again when the first silk appears.
Water the maize regularly. Again, at least once a week and up to once a day to maintain soil moisture at one centimetre below the surface. We had an extremely, exceptionally hot summer with temperatures up to the 1990s, we even watered twice a day since our maize was in containers. Use garden hoses and cover the soil with an inch of grass clippings, straw, cardboard or newspaper to reduce evaporation. Before planting, amend the soil with lots of fertilizer and peat moss.
Keep the area around the corn free of weeds to avoid insects and disease. Rotate your maize crop if nematodes seem to be the problem. If nematodes appear to be present in all areas of the garden, you may need to solarize. This involves covering the garden with clear plastic for the hottest 4 to 8 weeks of the summer. It’s too bad you don’t have a garden, but it kills nematodes and weeds and soil pathogens.

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