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The Sharp Edge: Detasseling for seed production with Joe DeBrouwer

By: Bernard Tobin

August 5, 2022

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There is no room for error when it comes to producing hybrid seed corn.

It’s a complicated business, and one of the keys to success is effectively detasseling rows of female plants of one inbred line so it can be fertilized by the second male inbred line, creating a hybrid.

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On this episode of The Sharp Edge, Maizex Seeds agronomist Greg Stewart visits with Blenheim, Ont. seed grower Joe DeBrouwer to better understand the detasseling process and why it’s important for seed producers to get it right.

In the video, DeBrouwer and Stewart work through the procedure, which begins with mowing a field of growing seed corn to level the plants. In uneven or variable fields, advanced plants can be cut by one-third or one-half to allow less advanced plants an opportunity catch up and create a more even field for the tassel-pulling (or detasseling), which typically happens one to three days later. (Story continues after the video.)

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DeBrouwer’s detasseling machine is designed to pull the tassel of the female inbred while leaving the male plant intact. The 12-row machine is capable of pulling up to 250 acres on a busy day. Mechanical detasselers typically pull up to 95 percent of the tassels, but DeBrouwer emphasizes that not a single tassel can remain in the field.

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To complete the process, detasseling crews are required to walk every row in a field two to three times to remove any missed tassels, including those that may emerge later from slow developing plants.

Federal inspection agencies are then required to inspect the field to ensure seed purity. “It’s a zero tassel policy,” says DeBrouwer.

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