Thursday, July 11, 2019

Grinning from Ear to Ear: A Corn Update

The corn is making my wheat farmer grin from ear to ear ... corn pun intended.

While we slog our way through the soggy ground and poor wheat crop toward the end of wheat harvest, Randy can't help but be excited about our dryland corn crop. He has to let his eternal optimist outlook shine somehow!
July 4, 2019
It's not the norm to have a tunnel of corn lining both sides of the road on the trip from our house to the Zenith Road. Corn still is not our primary crop, but prevent planting on wheat acres last fall meant a boost in the corn acres planted this spring.
We planted 600 acres of corn last April. That's not much when compared to other farmers, especially those with irrigated acres, but it's significant for us. We also planted 95 acres of milo and 30 acres of silage, doubling our normal row crop acreage.
Because of spring rains, we have our share of mudholes in the corn fields.
But now that the corn is taller, there's the illusion of a mile-long avenue of corn on one side of the road south of our house.

The 1.5 to 2 inches of rain that fell Friday into Saturday arrived at an inopportune time for wheat harvest. But it was an ideal time for corn pollination.
The tassel is the male flower of corn. Each tassel is comprised of a central tassel stalk and lateral branches. As the corn plant tassels, it opens its packets of pollen.
At the same time, silky strands become exposed on the lower portion of the plant. The pollen from the top of the plant must reach the silk. In the fields, this is done solely by wind and luck. Once the silk is covered in pollen, each strand will become a kernel of corn, and an ear of corn will start to form.

Corn is monoecious, which means that male and female reproductive structures are present on each plant. However, male and female flowers are in separate locations on the plant. Given the separation of the ear and tassel and considering the vast amounts of pollen transported within a field, it is understandable why corn is primarily cross-pollinated. Less than 5 percent of kernels may be fertilized by pollen from the same plant.
The ear is the female flower of corn. (Randy is pointing an undeveloped ear of corn in the photo above.)
Silks develop and elongate from the surface of each ovary on the ear. The silk functions as the stigma and style of the female flower providing a pathway for the male reproductive cells to reach the ovule. Silks begin growing from ovaries at the base of the ear, then progress toward the tip.
Normally, pollination is a continuous process with fertilization occurring gradually along the ear as silks emerge. A mass of long, green silks indicates that pollination has not occurred. Anything that interferes with pollination may reduce fertilization and kernel set.
Successful fertilization does not always result in a harvestable kernel. Even though the corn looks good right now, there's a lot of time until harvest. For several weeks following fertilization, grain quality and quantity can be reduced when photosynthesis is interrupted by cloudy conditions, moisture stress, heat stress and other factors.
But even with those caveats, the crop's current prospects have my farmer happy for the moment.
July 8, 2019
It's good to have something to dream about when it's taking forever to fill a truck with a poor wheat crop and you're backing out of endless mud to avoid getting stuck. 


  1. I'm sorry about your wheat! But happy for your corn! I sure hope that it continues to do well for you, and that you have an abundant harvest!!

    1. Thank you, Alica. I keep reminding my optimist that it's a long time (relatively) until harvest. Next week, it's supposed to get hotter, so we'll see. (It's also county fair week, so of course it is!)

  2. Incredible images of your corn and your happy farmer. I hope the weather doesn't have any other nasty tricks up its sleeve.

    1. Thanks, Helen. It's supposed to get really hot this coming week. Of course: It's county fair week! I hope most of the pollinating will be done, but it will still impact grain fill, I'm sure.