Buggy Whip Corn

Jun 26, 2015
By Joel Ransom
Extension Agronomist for Cereal Crops
With the recent heat, corn is starting to green up and its growth is starting to accelerate. My colleague recently commented on the number of deformed corn plants that he saw in one field where the corn crop, otherwise, looked exceptional. The upper-most leaf of the affected plants was curled so tightly that it looked like a buggy whip.  
Buggy whip corn is, in fact, a frequently used name to describe this phenomenon. Twisted whorls or buggy whipping is most commonly a problem of young corn plants (five to six leaf stage) and occasionally can be traced to a misapplied herbicide or a severe stress. We were not able to confirm that a growth regulator type herbicide was applied. Nevertheless, given the random nature of the occurrence of these afflicted plant, it is most probably an environmentally induced plant response. Buggy whipping that cannot be traced to herbicide injury most commonly occurs when conditions favor rapid growth after a period of slow growth. The cool weather in recent weeks most likely predisposed plants to buggy whipping which expressed itself after warmer weather moved into the region enabling faster growth. 
plsc.ransom.2.young corn plants buggy whip
These tightly curled leaves will generally unfurl with little impact on subsequent development and yield. The emerging leaves will appear almost yellow for number of days since they have been excluded from sunlight and lack high levels of chlorophyll.
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