My corn crop grew nice and tall and very healthy looking, but the ears are very small and undeveloped. What did I do wrong?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Clem in New York: Small ears of corn can be an indication of a potassium deficiency. In some cases the levels of potassium are fine but with certain types of soil and moisture levels it may not be available for the plant to absorb. You can have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service to determine if this is the problem. This could also be a pollination issue: for optimal pollination, it is best to plant at least three short rows as opposed to one long row. When kernels fail to develop or are sporadically developed on an ear of corn this means they were not fully pollinated. Corn is pollinated solely by wind, which is why commercial growers plant in several shorter rows as opposed to a few longer rows. Pollination really just depends on which way the wind blows when pollen shed occurs on the tassel. The tassel produces pollen and as the wind blows it comes into contact with the silk, eventually pollinating each individual kernel. Each strand of silk is attached to a single kernel so this is why we see random kernel development with poor pollination. Like any other crop, adequate moisture and sunlight are essential for a good harvest. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do at this point to help your crop for this season but have your soil tested and adjust your planting design if needed for next season.