The Q&A Archives: Immature Corn Kernels

Question: I planted Burpee Heritage Gentleman white corn. I fertilized it twice as suggested (using Miracle-Gro)and the corn is doing real well. Ten feet tall in fact, and all have ears on them. However the corn itself is not maturing completely. Some (a few ears)have completely filled in, and most kernels(ears) just are only half filled in. What do I need to do to have better ears of corn? This is my first try at corn. It is just at or past picking time.

Answer: If your corn stalks reached 10' in height, you're certainly providing good soil, lots of sunshine, and just the right amount of moisture and nutrients! When ears don't fill out completely, it's generally a problem with pollination. When the stalks develop tassels the pollen within the tassels matures and falls onto the silks protruding from the ears of corn. Pollen is dust-like and generally falls down to the silks, but can also be blown by the wind. That's why, to ensure complete pollination, it's suggested to plant corn in blocks rather than long rows. As pollen falls onto the silks, a grain travels down the silk to the cob where it fertilizes the immature kernel. Each kernel has two silks attached and must receive pollen grains in order to start the process of enlargement. That's why you'll sometimes find an empty space between two fat kernels. It means that that kernal did not receive pollen and did not mature.

Wet weather can have an effect on pollination, as can corn stalks placed too far apart for the pollen grains to travel. Next time you plant corn, plant it in a block, not rows. And, to help things along, you can cut a tassel off a stalk and shake it over the silks of the ears to make sure pollen lands where it should!

I know you'll have better luck with your corn next year!

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