Corn Growth Classic Rewritten and Available to Order

Encyclopedia Article

By Lori Abendroth and Willy Klein

01 Apr 2011 - Screenshot of the Corn Growth and Development cover
AMES, Iowa — ISU Extension's corn production team has completed a new publication. “Corn Growth and Development” (PMR 1009) replaces “How a Corn Plant Develops,” the previous Iowa State publication that served as the standard reference on corn growth and development for more than 40 years.

“How a Corn Plant Develops,” written by Iowa State University agronomists of previous eras, established the basics still used today for staging and communicating about crop development. The late John Hanway, a well-known ISU agronomist, wrote the first version in 1966, which was followed by a rewrite in 1982 by Steven Ritchie, Hanway and Garren Benson.

“We knew from the very beginning that if we were going to remake this classic publication, we would need to contribute something new and fresh and have some very talented people on our team,” said Lori Abendroth, ISU associate corn agronomist. “Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a point to redo it because it already was very useful and popular.” Authors of “Corn Growth and Development” are Abendroth; Roger Elmore, ISU Extension corn specialist; Matthew Boyer, former ISU agronomy graduate student; and Stephanie Marlay, ISU agronomy specialist.

The 2011 publication provides an in-depth look at corn, from the moment the seed is planted all the way to maturity. It takes much of what is known about crop physiology and combines that with field agronomics to provide students, corn growers and agronomists the current and technical information they want and can use.

“To develop the new publication, we conducted multiyear research trials, read piles of research papers, grew hundreds of plants for the photography sessions and spent hours working with editors and designers,” Abendroth said. One of the first steps was to conduct biomass and nutrient accumulation research, followed by four years of various research trials to fine-tune recommendations and facts in the book, and a year of growing plants for the publication images.

Much of the framework that was successful in the previous versions, including numerous color images and graphics, and descriptive text, has been retained in the new book. “Corn Growth and Development” is more than twice as long as the original, featuring 50 full-color pages, and is based on a new generation of corn hybrids and production research.

The new publication weaves the newest scientific facts regarding corn growth and development throughout the pages in a way that is concise and easily applicable for people in production agriculture. Key features include:

  • more than 90 images, including whole-plant images from emergence to maturity
  • detailed descriptions of vegetative and reproductive development
  • new dry matter and nutrient (N, P and K) accumulations figures
  • clarification of corn development staging methods
  • an expansive list of end notes with agronomic research references

“Corn Growth and Development” can be ordered from the ISU Extension Online Store at for $14 per copy. Publication images will soon be available to purchase and download from the same location.

Iowa State University Agronomy Extension Corn Production