How Many Ears Does Each Corn Stalk Produce?
If you think corn plants produce multiple corn ears per stalk, you might be in for a surprise. Corn actually produces way less ears than you may think, and after some years of experience, I can tell you how many ears you can expect and more.
Typically, corn stalks only produce 1 ear of corn at a time. In some cases, 2 corn ears can be found growing. It is rare to see any more than this. Smaller nodes can be found along the shank of the plant, but oftentimes they do not finish developing, leaving only 1-2 ears to harvest.
Corn is an ingredient that can be found in thousands of products on your grocery shelves, but on corn plants? They are surprisingly less plentiful! In this article here, you’ll learn exactly what I mean.
What Makes an Ear of Corn?
An ear of corn consists of the whole corn with its cob, kernels, and husk. These are usually what is harvested off of plants for consumption.
First off, what exactly constitutes an ear of corn? When it comes to plant physiology, an ear of corn is essentially the entire part of the corn that is harvested and eaten.
This frequently includes the cob, the individual kernels on the cob, and the husk, the leafy, outer covering of the corn. All of this is what is referred to as an ear of corn, which we then harvest once they are mature.
How Many Ears Does a Single Stalk of Corn Produce?
A single cornstalk typically only grows 1 ear of corn. Grown in the right conditions, corn plants may produce two ears, with the first ear being the dominant corn ear.
If given the right care and conditions, it may grow two ears, with the first and primary ear always being larger than the other. There are many types of corn, but a single cornstalk really only grows 1 ear of corn.
Sometimes multiple ears can be found, but they are often much smaller and do not grow into an entire ear of corn. You may wish your cornstalks would produce more ears, but there is a reason why they only produce 1.
Your corn plant’s main goal is to survive and reproduce, just like a majority of other plants. Instead of focusing all of its precious energy on growing 2 or more low quality ears, the best way for it to survive is by producing only 1 large ear of corn that is made up of hundreds of healthy seeds.
3 Factors that Affect the Growth of Corn Plants
As useful as corn is, there are some factors that can negatively play a part in the growth of your corn crops. Here are a few of them.
Corn plants can be damaged by extreme weather, whether it is due to rising temperatures or harsh frosts. Plant growth can be severely hindered if temperatures exceed 95 °F (35 °C) and lead to sunscald, while temperatures lower than 28 °F (-2 °C) can effectively kill tender plants and encourage infections.
Whether it’s high heat or extreme cold, corn plants can be negatively affected when there are extreme fluctuations in the weather.
In times of sweltering heat, the growth of corn can be greatly reduced whenever temperatures exceed 95 °F (35 °C), and can lead to kernels not developing properly. Sunscald is also more likely to occur, damaging younger leaves and making it easier for diseases to infect the damaged corn leaf tissue.
If temperatures are too low, corn plants will also suffer. Anything lower than 28 °F (-2 °C) can seriously injure or even kill younger corn plants, while also damaging the leaves of older crops. Fungal infections will be more likely if frost-damaged plants are left in wet conditions, and ultimately prevent them from recovering.
2. Moisture Stress
Corn plants cannot tolerate droughts and if left to suffer from moisture stress for long periods of time, chances of recovery will be significantly reduced and potentially lead to corn plants dying.
Fun fact: corn plants have a water content of around 80% during its vegetative stages. Cornstalks require a pretty consistent watering schedule in order to produce full and healthy ears, and because of this, this plant is not very drought tolerant.
Usually, if plants aren’t met with an ideal level of moisture, they can struggle with great nutrient deficiency without their much-needed water. Plants can recover if dry spells are brief, but the longer and more severe it is, the more difficult it will be for plants to recuperate.
3. Soil Compaction
Corn grown in compact soil is more likely to have small ears with fewer kernels. If the plant is unable to grow a wide root system, this will make it more difficult for the plant to grow and absorb the nutrients and moisture it requires from the soil, and may affect the overall corn yield.
For a healthy and expansive root system to take place, corn plants are best grown inside porous soil. But if the soil is hard and compact, this will prevent roots from spreading out, possibly hindering their ability to effectively absorb moisture and nutrients.
Without these loose and porous soils, it is much harder for the roots to grow. Any oxygen and water inside the ground will have a harder time circulating. Unfortunately, this may lead to poor plant growth, and overall may negatively influence the yield of the corn.
How Many Kernels Are in an Ear of Corn?
On average, a single ear of corn should contain an estimate of 700-800 kernels.
Of course, due to different corn types and growing conditions, there is no exact number as to how many kernels can be found. If grown in stressful environments, kernels may be reduced or may not even come out and grow at all.
For a single ear of corn, however, there should be at least 700-800 kernels. There are some types that produce larger kernels at a smaller amount and vice versa, but there are usually around 700-800 kernels on 1 ear of corn.
How Many Ears Are in a Bushel of Corn?
In general, there are typically 50-60 ears inside 1 bushel of corn. This should result in 70 pounds (31.75 kg) worth of ears.
The number of ears that can fit in a bushel does depend on how large or small each of the corn ears are. There are often 50-60 ears of corn inside a bushel.
Given the right care, ears can grow large and be dense and heavy with good quality kernels, and you may not need as much in order to reach 70 pounds (31.75 kg) worth of whole corn ears. If they’ve been shelled, the bushel should weigh around 56 pounds (25.4 kg) or so.
How Can You Estimate Corn Yield?
To estimate the corn yield over an area (assumed rectangular for simplicity) it is sufficient to:
- Estimate the total number of corn by counting the rows and columns of corn in one small area of the field
- Estimate the average amount of kernels per corn ear
- Estimate the total number of kernels by multiplying the total number of corn by the average number of kernels per corn
When it comes to estimating yields, it’s crucial that all the numbers used are correct. Otherwise, results may be way off and incredibly misleading. There’s some math involved, but don’t worry, this is quite simple.
1. Estimate the Total Number of Corns
You are not going to count the total number of corns one by one, of course.
Corn is often grown in rows in a very large field. Hence, to make your life easy, I suggest counting the number of rows and columns of corn in a small area of the entire field (like a 10 m2).
Once you know that in 10m2 you have X corn ears, you can quantify how much corn you have on average per m2 (just divide by 10). Suppose that you have 20 corn per meter square. Then if your field is 1000m2, then you will have 20×1000=20,000 corn. Easy-peasy!.
2. Measure the Kernel Rows and Columns per Corn Ear
Pick up a corn from the field and count the number of rows and columns in the corn to estimate the number of kernels you have on it.
We’ll say a single ear of sample corn has around 20 kernel rows and 30 kernels inside each row. This makes 600 kernels per corn ear.
3. Estimate the Total Number of Kernels
Now that you know the total number of corn (20,000 from our simple example) and the total number of kernels per corn (600 in our example) you can now quantify the total number of kernels in the field.
Just multiply the two, and you will have, in this example, 20,000×600=12 millions kernels!! That’s a lot of them!!
If you want to go the safe way, please consider a reduction factor of 10% to take into account diseases, not fully grown corn, etc. In our example, this will lead to 1.2 million kernels less.
How many kernels of corn do you need for a bushel?
There is an average of 90,000 kernels in a bushel of corn. So, if you want the number of bushel, you need to divide the number of kernels by 90 thousands.
In our simple example, the roughly 10 million kernels equates to 111 bushels.
How much corn can you grow per acre?
On average, around 90,000 corn can be grown per acre. This is because it is recommended to plant 2 ears of corn per square foot (and there are roughly 43000 square feet [3,994.83 m²]).
How to Harvest Corn
Corn can be harvested after around 70-85 days. Dry and brown corn silk, and creamy liquids produced from the kernels are all good indicators that the corn is ready. Corn can be harvested from stalks with a twisting motion.
Corn usually takes around 70-85 days to mature, so take note of this when you first plant these vegetables. It may be a good idea to first inspect your cornstalks to ensure there are no visible pests before harvesting.
To count the ears, you can carefully examine the shank to check if there are other nodes that have branched out and away from the stalk. Even if you do find some smaller ears, there will often only be just 1 large ear to harvest or possibly 2, but no more than that.
You can tell the corn is ready for harvest when the silk has browned and become dry, and the corn feels firm and nicely rounded throughout the ear. You may also carefully peek underneath the husk to squeeze a kernel, and if you see a white-ish liquid, this is a very good sign it’s ready for harvest. Twist the ear off the stalk, and you can eat this fresh and drop immediately into boiling water.
Why isn’t my corn plant growing ears?
Not having any ears on your corn plant may be due to a number of reasons. Since corn is wind-pollinated, there may be a possibility that pollination was not the best. Any frost or water stress may also delay them or even damage the plants’ ability to grow ears entirely.
But if the corn plant is healthy and producing tassels, it may be best to wait a few more weeks. Sometimes all you need to do is just give this vegetable a little more time, and you just might see those ears of corn soon.
Why is my corn growing multiple ears at 1 node?
If you see multiple ears of corn shooting out not just on the same stalk, but at the same node, then you might just be witnessing what is called “Bouquet ears”. Although uncommon, this does happen sometimes.
The exact reason behind this is still unknown. But the most common theory is that the dominant ear may have been damaged and affected in its development, leading to the plant growing an entire cluster of ears to make up for it. This is usually not successful, though, as most of the time these ears will fail to develop.
In general, corn plants produce an estimate of only 1-2 ears of corn per stalk. There may be times when other ears can be seen growing on the stalk, but there is typically only 1 large dominant ear and maybe a secondary, smaller ear of crown growing on the cornstalk.
- “Multiple Ears of Corn on the Same Shank” by R.L. (Bob) Nielsen in University of Purdue
- “Sunburn/Sunscald, Squash Diseases, and Spider Mites” by n/a in Utah State University
- “Growing Sweet Corn” by Joseph Masabni and Patrick Lillard in Texas Agrilife Extension