Friday, September 8, 2017

What is a Tassel Ear?

This year, many asked about tassel ears, which is when corn plants form an ear (female flowers), instead of the tassel (male flowers).  Normally, the female parts of the tassel and the male parts of the ear shoots abort, on a corn plant,which results in unisexual flowers (ear and tassel). However, every once in a while, the development of the tassel is altered and the female parts result in the development of kernels.  This results in the tassel and ear on the same structure on top of a corn plant.  The physiological factors for the development of female flowers on the tassel is thought to be hormonally-driven, but the environmental trigger that alters the hormonal balance is not exactly known.  

Tassel ear

Some hybrids could be more likely to form a tassel ear.  Tassel ears can be on tillers or suckers. These tassel ears can form when the growing point is damaged by hail, wind (green snap), animal feeding, frost, flooding, herbicides, and mechanical injury before V6.  For example, we see many tassel ears near plot alley ways  that were cut earlier in the season.  Tillers or suckers are more likely to be found in low plant densities.  Tassel ears can also be found on field edges where early season soil compaction and saturated soil conditions could be the reason for this abnormality.

This year's early season wet weather could be the reason we could be finding more tassel ears, but do not to confuse tassel ear with the disease, crazy top, where infection causes tassel or shoot development to be an abnormal mass of leaf tissue.

Tassel ear found in a drowned out spot in a field

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