Monday, July 19, 2010

Check Corn for Pollination and Seed Set

Cory Walters just posted an article about how good prices look right now for corn. In addition, the corn crop looks great from the road. But before you decide to contract that rest of your expected yields, get into the fields and make sure pollination went well.

We have received several reports from county agents of fields with poor pollination. Perhaps the most unsettling report came from Tom Miller, Extension agent in Ballard County, who said that pockets of a field had poor pollination. Plants in the same row had good pollination while others had terrible pollination. (One of his images is attached to this article.) At this point, hot dry weather and slight variations as to when pollen drop occurred appears to be the best explanation. This is unsettling, because the whole field looks excellent from the road.

So, if the silks are dry, then pull back the husks and look at the developing "blisters" or seeds. You know how a good ear of corn should look... even number of rows, pollination from the base to the tip of the ear.

If the silks are still wet, but pollen drop appears to be complete, then you can gently remove the husks and get an estimate of pollination. To do this, make a cut through the husks with a sharp pocket knife along the ear. Start at the base of the ear and slice up to the tip. Make a second slice on the other side of the ear. If you have done a good job making the slices, you should be able to gently pull off the husks without removing the silks. If silks come off with the husks, then get a new ear and start over.

Once you have successfully removed the husks and kept the silks on the ear, hold the ear at the base and gently shake it. You may want to point the top of the ear towards the ground. As you gently shake, silks will fall from the ear if pollination has occurred. Again, you are hoping for all of the silks to fall from the ear. Pollination normally occurs from the base of the ear and then moves toward the top. If you happen to get an ear where the silks near the base fall off, but the silks near the top do not, then pollination may not be complete in the field.


  1. Atrazine has been a mainstay of corn, sorghum and sugar cane production for 50 years. The second most-used herbicide in the U.S., it controls a broad range of yield-robbing weeds, is safe for the crop and supports a variety of farming systems, including soil-saving conservation-till agriculture.

  2. Albert Einstein said, "If mankind loses the honey bee, mankind will disappear witin four years." I wish to disagree with Mr. Einstein; it might take slightly longer. Apiology experts have estimated that the world has already lost 40% of its bee polinators Bees are the main polinators of corn, clover, beans, tomatoes, alfalfa, onions, carrots and several other crops. It's time to wake up!


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