Friday, July 25, 2008

Corn Silks and Tassels

Tasseling and detasseling

About three weeks ago, I stopped along Old Highway 68/80, east of Hopkinsville, and took this photo of the Little River Valley. In the distance, a field of corn is growing in the rich bottom land along the river. It appears as a yellow patch because all the corn plants were tasseling (blooming). The tassel is the male flower of the corn plant.

The cornfield was also full of female flowers (little corn ears-to-be), though they aren't visible in the photo.  Each one had its silks (ovary extensions) ready to receive and transport the pollen. Each silk was connected to an ovule (kernel-to-be) on the ear that began to grow as soon as it was fertilized.

Pollen grain germination occurs within minutes after a pollen grain lands on a receptive silk. A pollen tube, containing the male genetic material, develops and grows inside the silk, and fertilizes the ovule within 24 hours. Pollen grains can land and germinate anywhere along the length of an exposed receptive silk. Many pollen grains may germinate on a receptive silk, but typically only one will successfully fertilize the ovule.

Source: "Silk Emergence" at the Corny News Network

When hybrid seed corn is grown, two varieties of corn are planted in a field, but only one variety is allowed to tassel. The tassels on the other variety are removed manually (often by teenagers who need a summer job) and/or by machine, or sometimes a corn variety with sterile tassels is planted.

The ears that grow on the detasseled plants will have hybrid seeds (kernels) -- a cross between two varieties. All of the corn kernels from ears on the tasseled plants are simply "chips off the old block", now a little more inbred.

After the corn tassels, the whole energy of the plant is devoted to growing the ear/s of corn and filling the kernels with all the nutrient and genetic material it will need for germination. The plant will not develop any more leaves or get any taller.


Beth said...

The corn looks good this year. When I was there last July everything was small and burning up in the fields from lack of rain. It is easy for me to conjure up the summer smells of Christian County and I do miss it. Thanks for making me feel a little bit in touch with your beautiful pictures and information.

ptg said...

The corn surrounding my place hasn't looked this good in many years, in spite of some high winds. Rain is the key. This really humid weather doesn't hurt, either.

Marvin said...

I like your blog. I favorited it.

Genevieve said...

The corn out west of Hopkinsville along Highway 68/80 doesn't look nearly as good as the corn along the same highway in eastern Christian County. We were shocked at how dry some of the cornfields are. Obviously, they haven't received as much rain west of town.

Genevieve said...

Thanks, Marvin. I hope you'll visit often.

KennethF said...

Hey G:
I'm glad your feeling better? I once drove from Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Ocean in central New Jersey with out using any major highways. Much to our surprise, Jo Anne and 'KJ', we were never without a cornfield in sight. All that way! Imagine looking at the beautiful ocean from right in the middle of a wonderful cornfield. I did not make any special effort to do this and it was a good year for corn.
I've been told that water on specific groth cycle days (3?) determines if the plant will produce a second ear? Your top pix is especially fine in balance, perspective and over all
comp. May I frame and feature this pix at my site... maintaining your credits as before? This entire strip loaded very fsat and all photos & enlargments were exceptional! :)

Lesa said...

The corn in south Christian looks pretty good right now. We have received a good amount of rain the last several weeks. It looks a lot better than it did this time last year!

Genevieve said...

Kenneth, I e-mailed your photo. New Jersey still has a surprising amount of agriculture, despite all the cities and industry, I think. I guess that's true of most of the states -- still a surprising amount of agriculture.

Lesa, I agree that it's wonderful to see our fields looking so much better than last year. Even the driest fields I've seen this year look better than a lot of last year's fields.

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