When Will a Corn Plant Tassel?

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Corn (Zea mays) is a warm-season crop that prefers full sun in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Days to maturity range from as few as 60 days to 100 or more, depending on the cultivar. Typically classified as early, mid season and late corn, a variety of corn can be grown in all parts of the United States, as long as its days to maturity are fewer than the number of frost-free days in your region.

Tassel Emergence

  • The tips of the tassels may be visible before the corn has reached its adult height, but the tassels are not ready to perform the task of producing pollen yet. Approximately four weeks before the corn is expected to mature, the tassels become more prominent. The spike grows rapidly and prepares to release pollen. You may notice what look like loose seeds dangling from the tassel.

    To calculate when your corn will tassel, first calculate the expected time of maturity. Count forward the number of days for your variety of corn's days to maturity, starting from the date of planting. Next, count backwards four weeks to determine the approximate time for tasseling to occur.

Silking

  • Approximately three weeks before the corn matures, silk appears from tiny, flat ears. Each strand of silk leads back to a kernel on the ear of corn, which is the ovary of the corn. Without pollen from the tassel, the ears of corn will not form kernels.

Tassels Release Pollen

  • Meanwhile, the corn plant sends a message to the tassel that the silk is ready for pollination. This causes the tassel to release tiny grains of pollen that are carried by the wind to the silk. When a grain of pollen lands on the silk, it forms a pollen tube down the center of the silk to the corn kernel. When the pollen reaches the kernel, the kernel is fertilized and begins to swell, filling out the ear of corn.

    Pollen is typically released in early morning and again in late afternoon. You may noticed a yellow film on nearby plants and objects as the pollen from the tassels settle. Each tassel releases 2 to 5 million grains of pollen.

Ear Development

  • The ear of corn continues to grow for approximately three weeks until the kernels have reached their mature state. At this point, the silk turns dark brown to nearly black, indicating that the ear of corn is ready for harvest.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
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