If you follow the local news or USDA crop reports, you may have seen or heard the term “silking” used in updates on the state’s corn crop progress. Silking takes place at the same time as tasseling, and both are a crucial part of the plant’s pollination process, which ultimately determines a farm’s overall yield.
The corn plant produces silks around 65 days after emerging. They are long silky, yellowish thread-like vegetation and each connects to a kernel and runs several inches outside of the husk to collect the pollen being released by tassels. A silk must be pollinated in order for its connected kernel to have an opportunity to develop.
To clarify, the corn plant produces both male and female parts with tassel being male and silks being female. If you want to get more technical, the University of Purdue has excellent information available on their website.
In the latest USDA crop progress report, as of Sunday, July 19th, South Dakota’s corn crop was 43% silked, which is 16% ahead of both last year and the five-year average pace.
Beyond pollination purposes, while it may seem strange, corn silks can be a part of a healthy diet as they contain proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Corn silk can be used to make tea and have historically been used for medicinal purposes to treat bladder infections, high blood pressure, fatigue and arthritis pain along with many other illnesses.
Amazing, right? This is just another example of how the corn plant is improving lives and world in which we live.