Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Corn update: Crop failure

Every season and every crop is a learning opportunity. This year's attempt to grow corn has failed, but I'm still trying to understand what could have happened.

What looks like healthy corn stalks is actually premature tasseling of the corn, and there aren't any silks to take up the pollen.

Tassels are the male organ of the corn plant. They emerge and release pollen. The smell is incredibly sweet and pleasant, and I haven't had any adverse reaction to it. Silks are the female organ of the corn plant. They emerge from the ear shoots located on the stalk itself and act as receptors for the pollen released by the tassels.

Each kernel of corn is produced by one strand of silk fertilized by a grain of pollen. Failure to fertilize results in one less kernel of corn produced on an ear.

With no silks at all, the pollen released by the tassels will die without ever having the chance to fertilize a silk. This means no corn will be produced.

According to the Purdue agriculture website, failure to produce silks is commonly caused by insufficient watering. The soil has always been moist, so this is not to blame for the lack of silks here. One theory I am considering is that the planter the corn is in may be too small. It is probably too small for two, in any case.

Corn is very nutrient greedy. Constant fertilization and watering is necessary to properly grow a successful crop. Not having fertilized the corn during the growing season may have resulted in this premature tasseling and failure to produce silks.

I have added some fertilizer and added more soil to give the corn more room to spread out in the planter, but this year's corn may be a total waste. I may try this again next year with bigger pots and plant only a single stalk in each pot.

More about corn silk: