The benefits of using Corn Gluten Meal

Possibly one of the most important breakthroughs in organic lawn care was actually a result of an accident by Nick Christians, an Iowa State University researcher, and, even better, you can find it at Uncle Luke’s Feed Store. Christians was conducting another experiment on the effects of Pythium (a fungal organism) on creeping bent grass, which is commonly used on golf courses to maintain their lush green appearance. During this experiment, Christians realized that the plot which was covered in corn meal had a significantly reduced incidence of the bentgrass germination. Christians soon found that the active component in the corn meal was the gluten, which was the protein fraction, and realized there were natural chemicals in the corn gluten meal which inhibited root formation at the time of germination. Before being “discovered” as a weed suppressor, corn gluten meal—a powdery byproduct of the corn milling process—was used extensively as a supplement for feeding hogs.

The Safety Factor of Corn Gluten Meal

The best thing about using corn gluten meal for weed control is that it is entirely safe and natural. You don’t have to worry about your children or pets playing on your lawn following application because corn gluten meal is 100% organic. In fact, many parks use corn gluten meal on their lawns, as a method of avoiding the chemical herbicides which can have far-reaching effects on humans, animals, water supplies, and other “good” plants. Corn gluten meal is presently the only natural product specifically marketed for weed control, and, unlike chemicals, will not end up in water runoff and surface water, or move with soil erosion.

How Does Corn Gluten Meal Work?

Rather than killing the weeds, like chemical herbicides do, corn gluten meal works differently, preventing the establishment of the weed root systems. Most people who use corn gluten meal on their lawns are attempting to inhibit crabgrass, dandelion and clover, although it works just as well on many other weeds. The best side-benefit of using corn gluten meal is that it contains  9 percent slow release nitrogen, meaning it will also contribute to greener thicker turf—while inhibiting germinating weeds, it simultaneously stimulates the growth of already-established plants. Unless it is used at a very high rate (80 pounds/1000 square feet, or more) corn gluten meal will not inhibit the roots of mature plants or transplants. Your weeds will germinate and form a shoot—but no root. Following this germination, you will need to allow a short drying period because watering the lawn too much at this point could allow the weeds to recover and build roots. Corn gluten meal needs to be applied the first time from approximately April 1-20th, and again in June for maximum weed suppression.

Different Types of Corn Gluten Meal

Corn gluten meal typically comes in an unprocessed form which has a fine, powdery texture, and, although it can be broadcast by hand, it will probably work better in a hand seeder. Once broadcast, it will appear very much like a layer of pollen on your soil. This type of corn gluten meal must be applied directly onto the bare earth or around new plantings as it’s texture is not conducive to working its way down through grass or mulch. Granulated corn gluten meal can be applied with a spreader, or mixed with water into a paste for more localized weed suppression. Pelletized corn gluten meal can be broadcast by hand, and works well on lawns. Generally a 50 pound bag of corn gluten meal will thoroughly treat at least 2500 square ft. of lawn, fertilizing your turf and suppressing weeds with every application.

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