Monday, May 23, 2016

Why is my Corn Purple?

Have you been on a Sunday drive lately and noticed your corn was turning purple? You start to try and put the puzzle pieces together, but the only good explanation is to call your local Burrus agronomist.  I am here to tell you that purple corn must be in style this year. Due to cool conditions, reddish-purple anthocyanin pigments are accumulating in some corn hybrid’s leaves. 

Now anthocyanin is an awful big word, so let’s look a little closer at what it means and what really causes corn to turn purple. Within the genetic makeup of the hybrid, it is determined if this water-soluble, vacuolar pigment will be produced by the corn plant. What this means is, when the temperature drops, the plant leaves of certain hybrids will continue to produce sugars, thanks to photosynthesis, but these sugars are not normally metabolized.  Normally, these sugars would be used for energy for further root and shoot growth.   So, unfavorable growing conditions can cause anthocyanin pigment (purple) to accumulate in the leaf.  
Picture taken by Jeff Busch, Burrus Dealer
Picture taken by Maggie Prather, Burrus Intern

The biggest question that farmers have: “Will this hurt my yield?” The good news is that the anthocyanin pigment is produced only within the cell’s surface layers, so it does not affect the chlorophyll process of the leaf.  Therefore, early season purpling does not normally affect yield.  It may last until there is a good stretch of warm growing degree days, when corn can grow and metabolize sugars normally, and turn to a normal green color. If the weather doesn’t warm up, plants usually grow out of the purpling by the critical growth stage V6. 

Other conditions that may cause corn to turn purple could be pests, disease, nematodes, compaction, pesticide mishap, root injury, irregular planting depth or emergence, or nutrient deficiency. 

Blog by Maggie Prather, Burrus Agronomy Intern and Stephanie Porter, Burrus Sales Agronomist

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