Sweet Corn Ears Lack Kernels - Knowledgebase Question

Pittsburgh, PA
Question by hasleypb
July 29, 2000
Everything in my garden has grown well except my sweet corn. It grew nice and tall in the spring and was even above "knee high by the fourth of July." Though the plants look healthy the corn itself is very skinny and the kernels are small and spaced far apart. Am I being too impatient? Should I wait until the end of August before picking? Or was this a bad year for corn?


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Answer from NGA
July 29, 2000

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Unfortunately, if the kernels are not formed they will not fill out. I would suspect the problem was caused by poor pollination, due either to rainy weather when the pollen was ready, and/or perhaps planting your corn in a row instead of a block. Since corn depends primarily on wind to transfer the pollen to the silks (which is what makes the kernels grow), you need to plant it in a block. A clump of 5 stalks per hill or a block 4 feet square is usually the base limit to ensure proper pollination. Also, corn is a heavy feeder and requires a good, steady supply of nutrients for good growth. Since the stalks look fine, though, I don't think lack of nutrients was the problem.

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