As a teenager, I walked bean fields armed with a corn knife to cut down volunteer corn. It was a miserable job. We may be seeing lots of teenagers wandering the fields this year. Thanks to last year’s derecho and other high wind events, many corn fields were flattened and totally abandoned. This means the sheer volume of volunteer corn will be leaps and bounds higher than usual, and it will germinate at different times.
Dean Grossnickle is an agronomic services representative with Syngenta. He recommends using mechanical control as your first defense.
"Do a tillage pass early, see if I can’t get some of that stuff to germinate in that first flush, and then hit it with another tillage pass," says Grossnickle. "That way, I’m using some mechanical control, I’m not relying on a herbicide here to help deal with one flush of this volunteer corn."
As we go through the season, you might have to put down one or two applications of a volunteer corn herbicide product because there is no gauge as to where germination will occur or when.
"We’re just going to have to roll with what we’re seeing out there and be able to hit this on a timely manner. I think the biggest thing that we’ve got to worry about is we can’t let this volunteer corn compete with our crop," he says. "The University of Nebraska did a study several years ago and they found that volunteer corn density of about 3500 plants per acre can result in a 10% yield loss."
Besides crop yield losses, volunteer corn can increase the severity of corn rootworm and diseases.