Tillers are a totally normal physiological process in corn — since it is a grass like wheat or barley — and they’re nothing to be concerned about. They’re also nothing to get excited about either, as unlike wheat or barley, tillers don’t contribute to yield.
In this episode of Corn School (this time in the west), Kara Oosterhuis is joined by Sara Meidlinger, market development agronomist with Pride Seeds.
“When you’re scouting your corn field, you might see some tillers coming off the corn,” says Meidlinger. “When you have a field with a really nice stand, don’t be worried about the tillers, it just means you’re doing a really great job and your crop is happy,” adds Meidlinger. Tillers in corn generally means there’s ample moisture in the soil and lots of nutrients.
As far as yield is concerned, those tillers will probably die off due to competition from the main stalk, where those resources will eventually go towards. If they don’t die off, and they make it through to harvest, chances are slim that a second, or even third tiller will yield any extra cobs.
In terms of planning for next year’s crop and managing tillers, now is a great time to go out and look says Meidlinger. Maybe plant stand isn’t optimal and the seeding rate could be bumped up a couple thousand seeds per acre, or fertilizers could be pulled back a bit, Meidlinger says.
At this point in the crop’s life, herbicide efficacy can also be scouted in order to plan for the next year. “You can definitely see where your weed escapes are,” says Meidlinger, and it’s a good time to think about tank mix partners or how effective your herbicide program was this year.