Corn Flowers and Removing the top tassel

scarletdaisies(6)July 27, 2010

I found some intersting websites on growing corn, found this one and want to ask some questions about it.

http://members.iinet.net.au/~msheaton/Organic%20Gardening%20Down%20Under/corn.htm

It says to cut the corn flower off of the top, unless I misread it, to grow bigger and better corn. First, what is a flower, and if it's the tassel, how can you pollinate your next ears of corn that will grow on the plant?

This sounds interesting, I just would like to know how it works. It says also you know your ears of corn are pollinated by that the tassels turn brown, not dying brown, but the color of the silk brown. I never knew this, how reliable is this to know if your corn is pollinated or not?

It would certainly give someone a clue as to what the problem is. To wait until the corn is big and looks ready to pick, but never know the corn silks are still bright white and you are going to get nothing.

If anyone has a clue, please let me know.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cutting Corn Flowers

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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

scarletdaisies, the author of your website says to wait until the tassels have been pollinated before cutting the top off. Personally I've never heard of this or how it would work, I think that I'll keep the tops of my corn plants intact.

Greg
Nevada

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:15AM
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scarletdaisies(6)

Yeah, but after that, more corn will grow on one stalk, how would you pollinate the others that grow later on the same stalk? I was just wondering. I wouldn't do that either because I don't trust it for what I'm doing. He talks of the corn flower, and I really wasn't sure what that was either. He means the tassle I guess.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:51AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

He is confusing and mis-using the anatomy labels so my over-all confidence in what he is saying is quite low but you are mis-reading what he is saying.

Once the silks on the ears (there are no tassels on ears and there is no such thing as a corn "flower") have turned brown, get ready to harvest is standard knowledge. He says cut off the corn tassel (he calls it a flower) then.

And he does NOT say MORE ears will grow (they won't) but that the existing ears will grow larger and sweeter. So further pollination wouldn't be an issue.

A good trick is, once the corn cob has been pollinated (the corn cob tassels have gone brown and you can feel the cob forming) cut the top flower off. This will let the plant concentrate on feeding the cob of corn. The cob should grow larger and sweeter.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 8:20AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

The trouble is that half of what you read on the web is pure rubbish. This falls into that category. He's not only cutting off the tassel but the upper leaves. If anything that will make the ears smaller. Most likely it will have little effect.

Some people think that because they have a green thumb and can operate a website that they know everything. Actually a lot of these people are pure novices.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 11:25AM
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scarletdaisies(6)

I've read how they cut the tassels off for cross pollination, so I'm assuming you can save the tassel and propagate manually with it. Not that it matters to me because I do not have any interest to create my own corn species. I just wondered how it would work the way he's describing it. Just thought I would ask.

A home gardener for the fun of it might try this to make a large ear of corn as a seeder for next year. One stalk to lose to gain a larger breed of corn would be worth this, if it worked.

So you think it would make the ear smaller? And no more ears would try to grow? How long can you keep the tassel before its seeds are no longer able to pollinate, if done manually?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 11:45AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Scarlet:

Removing the tassel after pollination could increase the corn yield by about 1 to 2%, a very small, unmeasureable, amount. The mechanism would be a small increase in sunlight falling on the leaves instead of on the tassel. After pollination the tassel is just a small, basically dead, decoration atop the plant.

But our man was also cutting off the top 2-3 leaves. That would be about a 10% reduction in leaf area. Green leaves are essential to manufacture the sugars for sweet corn. So cutting off that much leaf area would have a small negative effect on ear size and possibly sweetness, mostly size. The two effects would largely cancel each other out.

If you mess with the tassels before pollination is complete on all ears, that could have a negative effect on kernel set. The tassel sheds pollen for 7-10 days.

Using the tassels for cross pollination of another corn line is another subject all together, one best addressed by a plant breeder. My experience is in production and management of corn for high yields, not breeding.

Good luck with your crop.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:20PM
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scarletdaisies(6)

Thanks for the answer! I was curious of the method. I have no intention to cut mine off. 7 to 10 days is all the use you get out of each tassel? Does that mean anything trying to grow after wards cannot be pollinated?

I know most commercial growers plant every two weeks and rip the corn out of the ground as soon as they get their first few ears of corn. I might have misunderstood this, but now I can assume it's because they are not likely to get more corn because of the lack of pollination?

I have only a 15 corn plants, they look healthy and tall, but the heat is a huge factor. I'm not having half the problems as I have in the past, so I am assuming my problems are heat related. It's in the mid 90s and 101 just a few days ago, so nothing is producing well like it should even cucumbers. I'm happy to say the corn would do fine in better weather, it was planted too late as an experimental small patch because of other failures. I see nothing wrong with them and I'm searching on the internet, but it's too hot to tell, and seems to be what most sources say that damages look more from excessive heat. They are definitely pollinated, I pollinate by hand.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

In truth, the tassel IS the male flower. It is correctly called a flower (or an inflorescence). The silks can correctly be called the female flower.

Confusion occurs, often, when we talk about the flowers of those plants that produce sexual parts we simply don't recognize as flowers, per se. These would include most all of our conifers, grasses, birch, oaks, elms, pecans, and hickories...just to name a few. You can probably guess what all of those plants have in common: they're wind pollinated. Who needs all of those pretty petals, scents, and nectaries when the wind is going to do most of the work?

Anyhoo, my point is not an important one in this discussion other than to point out that the terminology in the attached article is not incorrect.

I really can't understand the benefit of removing the spent male flower. I doubt very much that the corn plant is devoting any energy towards the support and upkeep of that part of the plant at this point in time. All of that energy is devoted to filling the ovaries (seed making) of the female flower! ;-)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 1:17PM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

Here in the heart of corn country, a lot of farmers go through the field and cut off the top section of the plant once the corn is well developed, but i thought they just used it for silage, dried cattle feed, just gettin the most out of the plant...i'll have to ask if it really does anything for the remaining plant.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 2:05PM
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nc_crn

Farmers detasseling corn are most likely making their own seed corn. It's a disappearing practice around here because people just buy seed. Good to see they're still doing it in the US.

Cutting off the tops of the plants kills the meristem/growth-point and lets the plants concentrate more energy (and water) on the corn development. It's also easier on some mechanical harvesters, though that's not an issue for many newer ones.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 4:55PM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

No, it's not de-tasseling, I know what that is, i did it when i was a kid, and it's still mostly done by hand here, the silage cut is done like early August, and they cut all the plants, when they de-tassel they're making hybrid seed, so they plant in specific blocks alternating the parents, then detassel the female so it can't self-pollinate.

Interesting to know that it does help the plant, though.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 5:10PM
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sandhill_farms(10 NV)

Here's wickie's definition of detasseling corn.

Here is a link that might be useful: Detasseling Corn

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 5:32PM
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nc_crn

Wow. There's some people who really care about agriculture doing a lot on Wikipedia the past few years.

I didn't even think that would be a topic, much less so greatly supported with information and pictures.

There's some great plant lovers there with some of the flower/floriculture entries I've read.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 5:39PM
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scarletdaisies(6)

The terms sounded kind of technical and I might be wrong, but are there actually flowers in the tassels or on the ear on some types of corn? I saw a picture of one with what looked like purple flowres.

I'll check around, more info can be found on if it really does anything. I appreciate the answers. If I can get the corn to actually grow, I would seed one for another year. I don't think I would even try to make a hybrid, but obviously it's not scientist quailfied methods, so in the hands of anyone to try.

I always end up on Wikipedia. They are well manned for a lot of topics.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 8:00PM
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wobblerlorri

I know most commercial growers plant every two weeks and rip the corn out of the ground as soon as they get their first few ears of corn. I might have misunderstood this, but now I can assume it's because they are not likely to get more corn because of the lack of pollination?

A corn plant only makes 1 or 2 ears per plant. Period. They pull up the plant after harvesting those ears to make room for a successive planting. Corn doesn't bear over an extended period of time.

2 ears, most likely only 1, and the plant is done. No point in leaving it around. I rip up my spent plants and put in short season corn. This way I can have 4 plantings of corn in just two 15 x 20 plots.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:43PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Corn being a grass/cereal has only one cycle and it then dries up slowly.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 1:34PM
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phytolacca

"The terms sounded kind of technical and I might be wrong, but are there actually flowers in the tassels or on the ear on some types of corn? I saw a picture of one with what looked like purple flowres. "

You're not thinking of cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) are you? It's not actually corn. And the tassels and ears of corn really are flowers. Corn is a grass, and grasses are angiosperms-- flowering plants. The tassels are male flowers and the ears are the female flowers.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 2:28PM
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scarletdaisies(6)

No, I mean the corn vegetable, not flower. I've seen a picture of a corn plant with little purple flowers around the top of the ear or on the taseel. It could have been the tassel that was purple, I've read of 6 ears of corn growing where one ear grows. Several people on this board mentioned it, but not sure of the variety, or if I have my facts right. It was more recent posts. I had thought they rip them out and replant, but most information on corn is that you can only plant in May or it won't produce as much or in the time period.

So, early growers are what you aim for to replant. I also read an article, just asking an odd question about grasses, is that if you lean the grass type stalk, it will produce more seeds. If the corn were slanted on a trelis, would they produce more sideshoots/ears of corn? Thought I would ask.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 6:32PM
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