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Gluten Report – High School Project on Corn Gluten Meal

Tim Guldan

New Ulm, Minnesota


Throughout the last twenty years, people have been making many discoveries involving the use of corn and its byproducts. There have been many findings involving healthy substitutions for fatty foods that are actually corn byproducts. Fructose syrup is one of them. It is used in almost every drink as a substitute for sugar. If you read the labels on many processed foods (for human and animal consumption) you will notice that most of them will contain a corn byproduct. In order to efficiently use the oversupply of corn in the United States, it is important that science discovers more uses for this crop that are not meant for eating purposes only. An example of this type is the use of corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent herbicide.


The purpose of this project is to discover if vermicompost has an effect on the efficiency of corn gluten meal as an herbicide when the meal is applied to the top of a mixture of compost and sterile soil. Through research and experiments in the past, I was able to conclude that corn gluten meal has a huge effect on the germination rate of small seeds; it greatly reduces it.

The discovery of corn gluten meal as an herbicide is very important to agriculture because it gives farmers another market for their selling their corn.

On the other side of the spectrum, most outdoor gardens contain weeds which hurt yields and are unsightly. They are also a big time-consuming problem. For the hobby gardener a natural herbicide is a safe alternative to chemicals.

The intention of this project is to investigate the probability of corn gluten meal acting more efficiently in different soil types. Adding vermicompost to soil increases its water retaining abilities and creates a soil that acts similar to peat. By adding compost to soil, a very fertile mixture is produced which is capable of producing very strong and healthy plants without additional fertilizer. Different types of soil hold different amounts of moisture which in turn affects the effectiveness of the corn gluten meal on the germination rate.


If I add compost to sterile soil for the benefit of increasing the amount of organic matter in it, the corn gluten meal will have a greater effect on the germination rate of the Timothy grass that is sown into it when compared to a sample of similar soil without compost in it. Therefore, the higher that the ratio of compost to soil is, the smaller the number of seeds that can be expected to germinate and grow.


The Materials needed were 500 redworms, 5-gallon bin for creating compost in, Newspaper print, Kitchen waste for feeding worms, Water, Measuring cup for water, Sterile soil, Five 4-inch pots for planting seeds, and some Timothy grass seed.


  1. To conduct my experiment, I first bought 500 redworms and placed them in a pail with newspaper print.
  2. Next, I watered the newspaper until it was thoroughly moist to give the worms an ideal environment for creating compost. I then added kitchen waste to the wormbin for the composting procedure.
  3. For one month I added food whenever it was needed until enough compost was made for my experiment.
  4. Once enough compost was available, I sorted the worms out of the compost and put them into a new container to use for family composting use.
  5. I then mixed the compost into sterile soil at different ratios and placed the mixtures into 5 different 4-inch pots. The ratios of compost to soil were 0:1 or 100% sterile soil, 1:3 or 25% compost, 1:2 or 33% compost, 1:1 or 50% compost and finally, 1:0 which is entirely compost.
  6. I planted 200 Timothy grass seeds into each pot and very lightly covered them with soil.
  7. Next I sprinkled 42.5 grams of corn gluten meal evenly over each of the pots. This is the recommended amount of corn gluten meal to use on established turf.
  8. I gently gave each pot 100ml of water and watered them all again when necessary.
  9. I placed all the pots in a sunny spot with moderate temperatures (65-70 degrees Fahrenheit).
  10. Finally after 21 days, I counted the plants that had germinated.


Germination Count per Level

Count Percentage
Sterile Soil Only 73 36.5
25% Compost 24 12
33% Compost 20 10
50% Compost 16 8
Pure Compost 8 4


One of the reasons that corn gluten meal has recently been gaining popularity is the fact that it is a natural herbicide that is completely harmless to people, animals and the environment. Although it cost a bit more than most chemical herbicides, many people are willing to pay the higher price to ensure the health of their family members.

During the time period of my experiment, I learned what I had expected to be true. Corn gluten meal appears to have a greater effect on the germination rate of Timothy grass seed in soil that has much organic matter in it.

I believe this to be true because corn gluten meal needs moisture to draw the chemical into the soil that surrounds the seed. Since organic matter or compost retains large amounts of moisture, the chemical is able to stay in the soil until it is absorbed into the air through the water cycle.

Since there many different soil types in various regions, corn gluten meal will presumably not perform identically in all areas. In soil types that have a lot of organic matter such as peat, it is my presumption that there will be less germination of weed seeds than in a similar plot with sandy soil.

My hypothesis was correct; treating the soil with compost to give it more organic matter, thus more water-holding abilities, increased the effectiveness of the corn gluten meal as an herbicide. The germination rate of the Timothy grass seed was definitely less in the sample that had seed sown into 100% compost. The planting of seed sown into pure compost allowed only 8 of 200 seeds to germinate, while the trial with 200 seeds planted in sterile soil allowed over 70 seeds to germinate.

Go to Iowa State University Horticulture Research Page
Go to Nick Christians/Faculty Page

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