The Q&A Archives: Ruby Queen Sweet Corn

Question: I am trying out your Ruby Queen sweet corn this year. The silk dried out and the husks showed what I
expected in "ripe". However, the majority of the corn has full-sized, ripe, deep-ruby red kernals on the bottom
1/3rd to 1/2 portion of the ear. The rest of the kernals are smaller, immature looking and tasting, with a
mottled green-clear-ruby shades. The mature vs. immature kernals are not interspersed on the ear, but
it's as if a clear line is drawn around the ear, below which is fully ripe and above which is not. The stalks
have been healthy, tall and strong. Tasseling was even, bountiful -- and, due to the color, gorgeous!
Production has been heavy, with good ear length. The only problem is this partial ripening. Any idea
why this might happen?

Answer: What you describe sounds like the result of incomplete pollination. Maybe the following will help you understand: When the ears of corn begin to develop, each kernal on the cob will have two silks attached to it. When the silks protrude out of the top of each ear, a tassle will have grown on top of the stalk of corn. Pollen develops in the tassle and is shed when it's mature. Corn is wind-pollinated, so it's important that the plants are close enough to their neighbors to receive a good dose of pollen. For this reason, we always recommend you plant so stalks grow in a block, rather than in a long row. When pollen reaches the silks, one grain travels down each tube and reaches the kernal, which begins the process of maturity of that kernal. If pollen doesn't reach a silk, for whatever reason, the kernal it's attached to will not develop. Since the potential is for every kernal on the cob to grow to maturity, poorly pollinated ears will have only some kernals that swell to maturity, and others that never develop. The most common reasons for poor pollination are 1) corn planted in rows rather than blocks, 2) rainfall when the pollen is released (avoid overhead watering, too!), 3) application of oil to the silks (to deter corn earworm) prior to the release of pollen from the tassles. Hope the above information helps you understand the reason behind your partially filled-out ears of corn.

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