Corn Leaf Stages and Growing Degree Days

Jarrod O. Miller, Extension Agronomist,

With the fluctuation in temperatures since mid-April, corn emergence and growth has shifted week to week. At the research station, we have observed corn emergence take up to ten days planted April 24th, but only five when it was planted May 8th. Rising temperatures accumulate growing degree days (GDD) in less time, so that would be expected. Looking across the region, any corn planted on May 12th should have already emerged in Sussex, or be close to emerging in New Castle (as of May 20th).

Following emergence, the next important stage to manage is V6-V8, where you would typically sidedress corn. The V stage means six leaf collars, which can be identified as the white circle around the base of a corn leaf (Figure 1). Emerging, or recently emerging corn leaves will not have a collar yet. In Figure 1, counting the collars puts this field at V3. As you scout fields, some plants may be at the next stage, while the rest will catch up in a day or two.

Statewide temperatures and rainfall since April 1st can be seen in Figures 2 and 3. The rapid increase in temperature over the last week should have sped up emergence as well as advancing corn to the next stages. Rainfall over the weekend mostly hit the southern part of the state, increasing totals around Dagsboro and Delmar, but we have seen total rainfall of 6-9 inches since April 1st across the state.

Figure 1. Locating leaf collars on corn (left). Counting these collars will get you the corn stage (V3 in this case) to compare to GDD (right).

Table 1. Accumulated growing degree-days based on planting dates through May 20th.

If you planted

Sussex Kent New Castle
14-Apr 498 465 441
21-Apr 407 372 354
28-Apr 325 297 274
5-May 225 216 202
12-May 125 118 112

Emergence = 120 GDD, V6 = 475 GDD.

Figure 2. Statewide temperatures since April 1st.

Figure 3. Statewide rainfall accumulation since April 1st.

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