Applying chemicals between corn rows rather than within the rows may help reduce the leaching of chemicals into groundwater, according to a USDA study.

Soil scientists at the agency’s Beltsville (Md.) AgriculturalResearchCenter found that the greatest movement of water into the soil occurred within corn rows, especially during summer rainfalls of an inch or more. This was true for no-till fields. Results were less consistent in plowed fields.

The soil within corn rows captures a good share of water because corn leaves funnel rain water toward the plant. The large amount of rain water funneled into the rows can then be drained through the soil into groundwater. Chemicals applied within the rows tag along and end up in groundwater.