Corn has an imperfect flower, with both staminate and pistillate flowers on the same plant. The staminate flower is the tassel; the pistillate flower is the ear. The silk, which has a hairy surface throughout most of its length that is receptive to pollen, is the corn‘s stigma.
- Decide on the varieties of corn that you wish to cross and plant the seeds in your experimental area. You can work with as many varieties as you wish, but if this is your first experiment it will be best to limit yourself to three or four. Corn tassels lose their pollen in a relatively short time, so in order to have the pollen of the different varieties ready at about the same time, plant a few seeds of each variety weekly over a period of weeks. Mark the rows for future reference.
- As soon as the plants develop ear shoots and before the silks emerge, cover the shoots with a loosely fitted bag secured at the bottom with a paper clip or string. A clear plastic or glassine bag will allow you to watch the silks develop. Cover several ear shoots, for the more that are pollinated the greater your chances of getting desired results.
- Keep a close watch on the ears. When the silks are visible the ear is ready for pollination. The appropriate tassel should then be bagged for use the next morning. The bag should be secured tightly at the base of the tassel to keep the pollen from falling out and to keep it from becoming contaminated with other pollen.
- The following morning shake the bagged tassel vigorously to loosen the pollen. Remove the bag from the tassel, bending the tassel downward to prevent pollen from spilling out
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