When it comes to producing seed corn, managing pollination and effectively detasseling the crop are critical steps in maintaining genetic purity and seed quality.
To get the job done, seed companies use a combination of technology and old fashioned boots on the ground to remove female tassels to ensure they get the unique hybrids they will use to fill seed bags for the next planting season.
On this episode of the RealAgriculture Corn School, we’re joined again by PRIDE Seeds field production manager Mike Bechard for part two of our series on the critical points of seed production season — from planting, to pollination, and harvest. In this video, Bechard and host Bernard Tobin return to a seed corn field planted 60 days earlier to discuss pollination and why properly detasseling the crop is so important.
In the video, Bechard explains why it’s critical to remove the female tassels from the field, allowing the male tassels to pollinate the crop, and creating the specific hybrid and its unique characteristics. The goal is to remove no less than 99.8 percent of the female tassels. If too many female tassels are left in the field to self-pollinate, Bechard notes that a high-value seed corn could be reduced to a commodity grain crop. (Story continues after the video.)
Managing pollination and the detasseling process starts with walking the field and deroguing the crop as pollination approaches. The goal here is to walk the field and ensure 100 percent of the plants — both male and female — carry the right genetic characteristics. Any rogues are cut down by a team of students who will walk the field up to four times to complete the process.
Next up is cutting the tops off female rows in the field using a machine that acts like a lawn mower. The goal here is to create a “table top” along the female rows to allow the tassel-pulling machine to then travel through the field and pull the female tassels. Bechard notes that the detasseling machine can remove up to 80 percent of the female tassels.
Teams of students then return to the field to walk the field and remove the remaining tassels. Typically, this final detasseling takes three to four passes over a seven- to 10-day period to ensure the field meets the 99.8 threshold.
Stay tuned for Part Three in this series.
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