Notes on pollination, ear and tassel bagging, etc.
--Charles R. Burnham

Ear bagging. First cut off the husks that extend beyond the ear tip. Often the ear bag can be pushed far down over the ear if the seam side of the bag is next to the stalk. Or the flat ear bag can be used to cut the sheath of the ear next to the stalk. Do not use the knife. The ear tissue next to the stalk is very tender.

If the top ear is to be removed, make a short cut across the sheath near the base of the ear, at right angles to the stalk. Break the ear out sideways. This preserves most of the sheath to prevent breakage of the stalk. Make certain that the entire ear is removed.

Tassel bagging. If the tassel is near the end of pollen shedding, check for full florets at the base of the tassel branches. These are likely to still shed pollen. This avoids bagging of plants that have finished shedding pollen.

Pollination. If there is very little pollen, most of it may be held between the outer and inner folds at the bottom of the bag. Open the bag so that the pollen held there is free to flow.

If many pollinations are to be made with the same tassel bag of pollen fold bag over on itself endwise. Press the edges of the fold tightly together. Pour the pollen plus anthers into the open end. Tap the bag and the pollen will pass into the bottom of the bag. Tear off the top part with the anthers.

Pollen from tassels that are shedding pollen but broken off and lying on the ground, with or without the tassel bag can be used for full seed sets. The stalk can be pushed into the wet ground or placed in a jar of water. Some pollen can be shaken out of the tassel every few hours after the peak shedding. Another peak is late in the day.

If the ear bag has been on for some time there may be a large mass of silks inside the ear bag. At one time, the procedure was to go through and cut the silks back on ears to be pollinated the next day. This is not necessary. At the time of pollination the ear bag can be pinched and twisted to break off the silks well above the tip of the ear. Or the ear bag can be pulled up part way and the pollen poured in at the tip of the ear. The ear bag is then pushed back over the ear and covered with the tassel bag. If grasshoppers are a problem, eating holes in the tassel bag, the ear is still protected by the ear bag.

Labeling. A manila tag, 1 1/2" x 2 1/2", is stapled on the inner fold of the tassel bag some 3 or 4 inches from the bottom end of the bag. These are prepared during the winter months. At the time of pollination, the pollen source is written on the lower half of the tag plus the date. The male plant and culture number can be recorded plus the traits of the female and male parent. My own practice was to stamp on the female culture number when the pollinations were complete.

At harvest, the pollinated ear is husked with a husking pin, and the pollination tag is nailed on the ear with a thin lath nail which has a larger head. I used a small, smooth stone to pound in the nails. This is preferable to rubber bands which disintegrate within a year. The pollinated ears from one year were not shelled until the results from the next year's plantings were obtained. Separations for aleurone color, yellow vs. pale yellow and white endosperms are easier when the kernels are still on the ear. Remove one by one.

Many of the above ideas were the result of suggestions from my students. 

Please Note: Notes submitted to the Maize Genetics Cooperation Newsletter may be cited only with consent of the authors

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