Ask an Agronomist
What Caused My Corn Ear Tips To Not Completely Fill?
Aug 05, 2011
Question: I’ve been checking my corn this week and the ears are filled out pretty decent except around the top; the tips are mostly empty. It’s been hot here, so I’m guessing I don’t have good ear fill because of the heat, but I’m wondering if you can give me any better idea of the cause?
Answer:You’re probably right about it being the result of the heat, if you’re in an area that had a lot of high temperatures hit your area during pollination. Tips of corn ears pollinate last and so are most susceptible to kernel abortion. If you look at the ears and see fairly uniform kernel loss around the top, that’s probably what you’ve experienced. A potassium or nitrogen deficiency is another possibility. Both of those nutrients are mobile and move from the oldest to the newest part of the plant but will look different on the crop’s leaves. Nitrogen deficiency starts at the tip of the leaf and comes down through the mid-rib, so there will be a V-pattern through the mid-rib. A potassium deficiency looks somewhat the same, so you have to look closely. That deficiency starts at the tips but then goes down through the outside of the leaves.
The grain filling period is the final important stage in growth and development of the corn crop. Stress on the crop during this time period can mean lower yields.
If you saw abnormal corn ear development in your fields this year, you weren’t alone. A number of farmers across the Midwest reported seeing curved, bent and/or twisted ears in their cornfields.