Inquiring minds want to know, or so they say. And Jim Facemire, Edinburgh, has an inquiring mind. That's one reason he works with Indiana Prairie Farmer and Stewart Seeds in high-yield corn plots on his farm each year.
Recently, he and Dave Nanda, plant breeder, visited this year's plots to take chlorophyll readings.
Using a Minolta SPAD-chlorophyll meter supplied by Spectrum Technologies, Plainfield, Ill., their goal was to take readings now and look for correlation between mid-season readings and yields this fall. The chlorophyll meter reads variation in leaf color, with the arbitrary reading number being higher for darker leaves, and lower for yellowish leaves.
In the field while corn was pollinating, Facemire asked Nanda what made for ideal corn pollinating weather. It had just rained a significant amount in the field a couple days before. The temperature in the afternoon was in the 85 to 88 degree F range.
"Days like today are good for pollination," Nanda told Facemire. "It helps to have moisture. Humidity is what really makes pollination go well."
Most of the plots were three to four days into the pollination process when Nanda and Facemire walked the plots taking reading. How did Nanda know? By checking out the tassels.
"Pollen shed starts in the middle of the middle, main spike on the tassel, then moves up and down that spikelet," he explains. "In days after that other side spikelets pollinate. So if you examine a tassel, you can tell which parts of the tassel still have pollen and which have already shed."
Some pollen shed was going on while the pair walked the field, because Facemire wound up with the tell-tale yellow pollen dust on the top of his cell-phone in his pocket. But part of that fell onto the phone surface off of leaves.
"Most of the pollen shed is over for today," Nanda told him. "It generally begins around if it isn't raining. You won't get pollen shed in the rain.
"Then it usually wraps up around . Next day, the process repeats itself until all of the pollen has shed from the tassel."
Got corn that's just now pollinating? Now might be an interesting time to check out what's happening in your cornfields.