May 21, 2024

Science Question – Why are corn plants often low at the edge of the field?

There is no clear answer to this question, from the point of view of biology one might expect the opposite. Photosynthetic growth factor, which drives photosynthesis in green plant cells and thus ensures growth, is more available to plants in the row at the edge of the field than somewhere in the middle of the field. Only if the field abuts a forest can strong shading there provide an explanation.

The fact that plants grow less well must be related to another environmental factor. The only remaining essential natural factors are water and nutrients that can limit the growth of edge rows. In addition to the presence of water and nutrients, the availability of plants that absorb water and nutrients through their roots may also be limited. Hans-Peter Kaul posits that poor availability is what often happens because the header or header in the field is usually pushed more often, which can lead to pressure.

Hans-Peter Kohl is Professor of Crop Production and Grassland Management in the Department of Crop Sciences at the BKU Vienna University and Research Centre.

Hans Peter Kohl

Also, when machinery is used to cultivate and dig soil, cultivation of loosened soil may be less intensive than in the field. This makes it difficult for the soil to penetrate the roots. In addition, the use of growth-promoting inputs, especially fertilizers, may be justified. Because in order to save money and protect nearby habitats, a farmer is more likely to spread fertilizer near the edge of the field rather than beyond it, so fewer nutrients end up at the edge.

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The last explanation relates to the vegetation on the green strip next to the field, i.e. field rain. Weeds often grow there and compete heavily with corn when it comes to absorbing water and nutrients, especially nitrogen, from the soil. As a result, you can limit the supply of neighboring corn plants so that they remain smaller.