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My corn seedlings appear to have been cut in half. What could be the cause?

Author: Kelly Young
Issue: September, 2017, Page 161
ASK THE EXPERTS

Q - When I visited my plot at the community garden this morning, I discovered that all of the corn seedlings I planted a few weeks ago were lying on the ground. It looks as though something cut every plant off at ground level. What could be the cause of this?

A - It is possible that your corn was destroyed by cutworms, which are not actually worms but are the larvae of a number of species of moths. They feed at night and only eat a small portion of the stem, right at the soil line. By day, cutworms hide out under mulch or soil debris. When discovered, they curl into a  characteristic “C” shape. Once the damage is done, there is nothing you can do to restore the plant back to health. Next year, consider placing a cardboard “collar” around corn seedlings shortly after they germinate. Cut a paper towel roll into 3-inch-long segments. Bury an inch of the collar below the soil line, leaving 2 inches above ground, enough to keep the larvae away from the plant.
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