Seed Corn Extra – Flaming

I’ve talked in the past about the extra steps that are taken with seed corn vs commercial corn. I am going to do my best to explain the first extra step that is taken after planting, it is called flaming. Go ahead and giggle it is a funny name – but it’s the simplest term to explain the process which results in extending the pollination period of the field.

Flaming is only done to the male rows that are in a seed corn field. For most fields you plant a row of male then 4 female rows and repeat. The tractor pulls what we call the flamer; it has a tank holding the LP, a bar which holds the tubing for the LP, and 4 boxes (these are where the magic happens). The box contains the end of the LP tubing and the pilot light. As the tractor drives, at a constant speed, through the field the LP pulses for brief periods in each box. As it pulses the flame coming from the box increases so it hits the male plant then decreases so just the pilot is burning. I posted a video to our Instagram page so you see it in motion. The flame only affects about half of the male corn, so you are only flaming a 10th of the field but you have to cover every inch. It seems like a lot of time for little gain but I’ll explain the gains next.

Close up of the box on the flamer. The corn goes through the arched portion.

The flame hitting the corn results in that plant’s growth delaying for about 3 days. Fast-forward to when the plants start to pollinate and the plants that were not touched by the flame will pollinate and 3 days later the flamed plants will mature. The ultimate purpose for flaming is to extend your fields’ pollination period so you have a much higher percentage of female plants being pollinated. (I feel like I’ve typed the word pollination 100 times already but there isn’t a synonym so we’re stuck with it.) Given that only the female seed corn ears are harvested, having them at the highest percentage possible is critical to our success.

If you look closely you can see the flames under the bar.

The next step in the seed corn process is detasseling. I will cover that once we get to it. Josh normally starts detasseling on July 5th but with the crazy spring we’ve had everything is delayed. I promise there is much more that goes into it than any middle school student that is out there pulling tassels knows.

Thanks for coming to the site – check our Instagram page for great pictures!

Until next time!

-Laura

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