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March 11, 2010
Scott Kuehl

Corn Gluten Info

Controlling weeds in an environmentally sound way can be a challenge in your garden and lawn. Corn gluten meal is a natural product that can safely inhibit germination of grass and weed seeds. Corn gluten is a by-product of wet milling process to make cornstarch.

It is an animal feed for cattle, poultry, other livestock, fish and some dog foods. It also contains naturally occurring substances, which inhibit the growth of seed's tiny feeder roots by causing a break down in the cell wall. The seedlings struggle to get enough moisture, which causes them to die before they ever have a change to take hold. When used as directed, corn gluten acts as a preemergent natural herbicide that will not harm beneficial insects, soil organisms, pond or stream life. It is also safe around pets and children.

Since corn gluten kills only the roots of sprouting seeds, it can be used around transplants and established vegetables, flowers, fruit, shrubs and lawns. It can be used even up to the day of harvest. Once vegetable or flower seedlings have true leaves, it is then safe to apply corn gluten.

Corn gluten has another benefit. It is 10% nitrogen by weight in a slow release form. As a 10-0-0 fertilizer it can inhibit weed germination and feed your lawn and garden nitrogen. (Additional supplements of phosphorous and potassium may be needed, based on a soil test.)

The only potential hazard that is documented so far is potential allergic reaction from inhalation of dust with certain individuals.

  • Corn gluten is a fine yellow powder, usually pelletized for easier application.
  • It is patented as a preemergent herbicide. Feed mills can not legally sell it for this purpose unless it is licensed by ISU.
  • Corn gluten results in less weed seed carryover in soil and added nitrogen to feed plants.
  • Areas that gardeners want annuals and perennials to reseed should not use corn gluten until after the seedlings are up and have true leaves.
  • Corn gluten works on seeds, not established plants. It will not kill a dandelion plant.
  • It has reduced crabgrass by 86% the first year and 98% the second year provided recommended rates are applied in both spring and fall. Dandelion infestations were reduced 100% in plots treated for 4 years in spring and fall.
  • Plants tested to date for susceptibility = 23 and include: barnyard grass, smooth crabgrass, curly dock, green & yellow, black nightshade, orchard grass, shattercane, purslane, wooly cupgrass, giant foxtail, lambsquarters, buckhorn, quackgrass, velvetleaf, annual bluegrass, dandelions, creeping bentgrass, black medic, redroot pigweed, catchweed bedstraw, & other common garden weeds.
  • Corn gluten lasts 5-6 weeks. There is no carryover. After this time seeds can be planted in treated areas without being effected.
How to Use
  • Application rate is 20 lbs /1000 sq ft.
  • Timing is critical!! Apply in early spring, 3-5 weeks before weeds sprout (when crocus and early daffodils bloom). And in early fall when temp turns cooler. Apply in gardens any time.
  • Spread around bedding plants, transplants, flowers or shrubs and rake in lightly.
  • Spread evenly on lawns. Avoid any bare spots where reseeding grass.
  • Sprinkle on cracks in driveways and sidewalks.
  • Water in if there is no rain.
  • Then allow area to dry for 2-3 days. Plants need dryness for corn gluten to effectively kill emerging weeds. If excessive rains occur, reapplication may be needed.
Is Genetically Modified (GMO) corn used to make corn gluten?
Up to 60% of the commercial corn and soybeans in the United States is grown from GMO Seed. Corn gluten sold as a preemergent herbicide may indeed contain GMO corn, but it has not yet been tested. Here's the twist. Corn gluten can reduce the need for traditional herbicides that have environmental side effects. It likely now contains GMO corn. It could be produced from non-GMO corn, but would likely be more expensive.

If GMO corn is used, can certified organic growers use it and will European markets allow it? How do home gardeners feel? And if plants are grown in soil treated with GMO corn gluten, could a crop pick up anything that show a positive GMO detect in testing?
Will the 10% nitrogen of corn gluten be a problem for low nitrogen needing plants?
Beans, peas and other legumes have reduced yields if given too much nitrogen. Also lean-loving flowers such as butterflyweed or coneflowers may not like the extra nitrogen.
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