Multiple ear shoots have been observed on a few hybrids in the past few weeks, which caused some concern among producers.  Multiple ears on a single stalk are not uncommon when found on different nodes.  This season, some hybrids are showing multiple ears on the same node, known in the industry as “bouquet ears”.

Multiple ear shoots are possible on the same ear shank, as the shank has a similar branching structure as the tassel; however, the majority of the time, only the primary ear is present.

In the majority of walks to date, the dominate ear of the bouquet is completely pollinated.  A second ear shoot that appears delayed was initiated well after the first ear had pollinated.  Often, bouquet ears have multiple ears that are poorly pollinated, which decreases yield substantially.  Bouquet ears are commonly a sign of poor pollination; however, this does not appear to be the case.

If the dominate ear of the bouquet is fully pollinated, the expectation is that there will be little yield loss.  If pollination has been complete for a number of weeks prior to the second ear appearing in the bouquet, the second ear will not be pollinated.  If pollination is
still occurring in the field, there could be some yield loss, as plant resources are now being shared between two ears on the same dominate node.

The cause of bouquet ears is not well understood.  It is believed that certain hybrids are genetically more prone to bouquet ears than others, in combination with multiple environmental factors.  Scout your fields and evaluate ear development.  If ears appear normal and pollination is complete, a bouquet would likely have little effect on yield.  Bouquet ears present in pollinating corn is of more concern to final yield potential.

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