My corn is tillering – should I be worried?

  • Jul 24
    Shawn Winter
    My corn is tillering – should I be worried? By Shawn Winter on July 24, 2014
    Categories: Grain Corn, Silage Corn

    Tillering in corn was a concern in the early 1900’s when it was thought that tillers robbed the main stem of the plant from nutrients, thereby reducing yield. Farmers actually walked fields and removed tillers from plants. Today, it is known that tillers have little influence on corn yield and may actually be beneficial.

    Tillers are shoots that grow from nodes at the base of corn plants and have the capability to produce their own roots, nodes, leaves, tassels and ears. They often develop due to lower plant populations, genetic background or under favourable growing environments where corn plants perceive excess nutrients and moisture.

    University studies have indicated that there is very little movement of photosynthate from the main stem to the tiller prior to tasselling. After tasselling, earless tillers may move photosynthate to the main stem, contributing to grain fill. If there are ears on the main stem and tiller, photosynthate movement acts independently, filling their ears respectively from their own leaves.

    Historically, if hybrids have shown exceptional yield under normal circumstances, tillers are not a concern. However, excessive tillers may indicate regions of the field where plant densities are low. These areas may be further investigated to uncover reasons for decreased density such as plant distribution or spacing. Corrective actions this season may lead to reduced tillering next season.

    Shawn Winter, CCA-ON, Maizex Seeds Product Development Manager
    Twitter: @SWinter_Maiz