Time to Check Pollination Success and Tip Fill in Corn Fields

Time to Check Pollination Success and Tip Fill in Corn Fields

CORN ILLUSTRATED: Are all systems still go for good yields in your fields?

If you haven't checked your corn fields yet, now might be a good time to do so. Depending on when you planted and what stage of maturity the crop is at, you may be able to answer some of your own questions about what type of crop you can expect to harvest this fall.

The pleasant surprise for some people hit the worst by the drought last year is that there are ears in every field this year! That's a moral victory and confirmation that last year was a fluke.

Better luck THIS Year! Here's a stark reminder from a year ago, when even corn that survived the drought fairly well didn't typically fill ears to the tip. Most people report good tip fill this year.

Here are some things to look for as you check fields. Be sure to walk into fields at several spots, and don't just stop on the end rows. Otherwise unless you have aerial imagery, you won't get a good idea of what the whole field is doing.

Check silks: If pollination hasn't been finished for very long and kernels aren't formed, you may want to do the shake test for pollination. This would likely apply to later-planted fields and/or later-maturing hybrids.

(Shake test recap: Unroll the shucks to get to the silks. Gently shake the ear and see how many silks fall off. Any silks that fall off means the kernel is pollinated. If silks remain attached, fertilization hasn't happened yet. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, perfected and named this test many years ago.)

Check tip fill: If your crop is finished with pollination, pull back some shucks and get a feel for tip fill. Some reports say in many fields where weather has been favorable, ears are filled out to the tip. That certainly wasn't the case a year ago.

The only trick is knowing if pollination is finished or not. If the tip kernels aren't well developed but silks are still attached, they may be fertilized yet. It all depends upon the stage of maturity when you check the field.

TAGS: USDA Extension
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