Why is my corn doing this?

Pleasant Hill, CA(Zone 9b)

If anyone can assist me with this challenge, I would be grateful. My corn looks like a cartoon hag's mouth.

Some ears are perfect, some look like this.

I feed organically only, and feed a lot (weekly with either fish emulsion or seaweed tea). Corn gets 8-10 hours of sunlight a day, and stalks are between 6 - 10 feet tall.

It tastes fine (oh soooo fine!!!), but sure doesn't look good enough for company!

Thanks -

Thumbnail by happygirl345
(Louise) Palm Bay, FL(Zone 9b)

Looks like a pollination problem.

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

Agreed. How much corn do you have planted and in what size block?

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Here goes, a very helpful article for Patti.

SW, AR(Zone 8a)

Insects (mainly the corn earworm) cutting the silks inside the husks can cause poor pollination.

Also, as you can glean from Angela Carsonís fine article, enough tassel damage leads to pollination problems.

Richland, WA(Zone 7b)

Maybe I'm thick, but I don't understand the article on detasseling- doesn't removing the pollinating tassels cut down on pollination? I would think it would be good to cut the pollen filled tassels ahd shake them on each ear that has silks showing.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Jo - I think the detasseling article was meant to imply that it was done to prevent the corn from self-pollinating. You would not want to do this in your home garden.

happygirl - your corn has suffered from insufficient pollination. How many rows did you plant and how many squares. From memory, I think one should plant at least four rows by at least four rows for adequate pollination.

Corn is wind pollinated. All the excess rain we have had this summer, might have caused lack of pollination.

Invite honey bees into your garden. They are great corn pollinators.

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

I've always heard a block of 100 square feet, but I had good pollination with a 4x10 block, a 3 foot aisle and a 4x10 block. The necessary size of the block may be dependent on local conditions and "100 feet" has some safety margin.

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I shake the stalks a few days to help ensure good pollination. Doing that, directing the pollen dust over the silks, would work with a single solitary stalk.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

Poor pollination is your problem.

Every single potential kernal has a silk attached to it that exists the top of the ear. And the only kernals that will fill are those that are pollinated. The pollen falls from the tassels down onto the silks and a pollen grain must enter the silk and travel all the way down to the future grain for it to fill. The empty spaces you have on the ear is where the grains were not fertilized. That means the silks attached to the potential grains did not recieve pollen and thus were not fertilized and could not fill.

This is why you need to grow corn in several short rows. Some of the ears were better positioned than others for the rain of pollen. Some of the ears with poor pollination may have been on the edge or upwind from the pollen.

I always break off a piece or two of the tassel and manually brush them against the silks. This helps to ensure pollination. It is possible to get good pollination with a single plant, but I recommend manually pollinating.

It is not a disease or insect or fertility issue.

This message was edited Aug 15, 2013 11:54 PM

Pleasant Hill, CA(Zone 9b)

I grew the corn in 12's (four across, three rows). I grew four sets like this.

There are only two of us, so I don't want to produce too much. (Of course, I guess I can freeze what we don't eat!).

Breaking off the tassel and brushing them on silks is a great idea!

Thank you all! I will triumph! (I have one more set that is just setting tassels now, so the silks should be visible shortly...)


Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I had some ears like that on the seventh planting a few years ago...it was caused by insects. That year the corn root worm beetles had amassed on the silks, eating them back to the shuck, and the grains that pollinated were huge and starchy and you could not remove the silks either [readily].

I prefer to shake the stalks as you get many repeat shakes...by leaving the tassels alive.

Hummelstown, PA(Zone 6b)

No need to break off the entire top part of tassels...just one little piece. Works very well. Also shaking is good but even with a slight breeze sometimes the ones along an edge can be missed. If an insect does devour the silks before pollination can occur then you very well could have the same problem. Did the ears on the ears that had poor grain fill have missing silks at the top of the ear?

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

When there is a breeze, I lean the stalks that way to compensate...been at this for a while.

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