Reproductive Corn Growth Stages and Scouting Tips

Stages:

 
 

R1 Stage: Silking*

R1 Corn Growth Stage

This stage begins when silk is visible outside the husks. Pollination occurs when these moist silks catch falling pollen grains. Pollen takes about 24 hours to move down the silk to the ovule where fertilization occurs. The ovule becomes a kernel. Generally, all silks on an ear are pollinated in 2 to 3 days. The silks grow 1.0 to 1.5 inches each day until fertilized. The R1 kernel is almost engulfed in cob materials and is white on the outside. The inner material is clear with little fluid present.

Tips*

  • The number of ovules fertilized is determined now. Those not fertilized will degenerate.
  • Environmental stress at this time can cause poor pollination and seed set. Moisture stress, in particular, affects the silks and pollen grains, which may result in a scattergrained ear or an ear with a barren tip.
  • Watch for corn rootworm beetles feeding on the silks and treat if silks are eaten to within 1/2 inch of husk.
  • At this point, potassium uptake is about complete. Nitrogen and phosphorus uptake is rapid. Nutrient content of the leaf correlates highly with final yield.

GDUs Required** to reach R1 growth stage depends on maturity and is approximately:

CRMGDUs
80 1,155
90 1,295
100 1,440
110 1,585
120 1,725
Scout for these Common Pests and DiseasesTiming*
Common Rust V12 through R4.***
Corn Rootworm Larval feeding is most extensive in early through mid-July in most regions of the Corn Belt.
European Corn Borer As the true stalk develops and European corn borer larvae increase in size, larvae can be found tunneling into the stalk.
Eyespot V6 through R4. Disease primarily found in northern environments.
Goss's Wilt VE through R6. Disease primarily found in Nebraska and portions of other western states.
Gray Leaf Spot VT through R4.***
Northern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Southern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Western Bean Cutworm Initiate scouting based on local pheromone trap captures of adults. If trap data are unavailable, begin scouting at VT.

R2 Stage: Blister*

(Begins 10 - 14 days after silking.)

R2 Corn Growth Stage - Blister

R2 kernels are white on the outside and resemble a blister. The endosperm and its now-abundant inner fluid are clear. The embryo is still developing, but it now contains a developing miniature corn plant. Much of the kernel has grown out from the surrounding cob materials. The cob is close to full size. Silks are darkening and beginning to dry out. Starch has just begun to accumulate in the watery endosperm. Kernels are beginning to accumulate dry matter. Seed-fill is beginning.

Tips*

  • Nitrogen and phosphorus are accumulating rapidly and relocating from vegetative to reproductive parts of the plant
  • The kernels are about 85% moisture and will dry down from this point.

GDUs Required** to reach R1 growth stage depends on maturity and is approximately:

CRMGDUs
80 1,305
90 1,470
100 1,635
110 1,800
120 1,965
Scout for these Common Pests and DiseasesTiming*
Common Rust V12 through R4.***
Corn Rootworm Larval feeding is most extensive in early through mid-July in most regions of the Corn Belt.
European Corn Borer As the true stalk develops and European corn borer larvae increase in size, larvae can be found tunneling into the stalk.
Eyespot V6 through R4. Disease primarily found in northern environments.
Goss's Wilt VE through R6. Disease primarily found in Nebraska and portions of other western states.
Gray Leaf Spot VT through R4.***
Northern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Southern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Stewart's Wilt Disease is initiated with corn flea beetle feeding from VE to V5. Leaf symptoms appear after R1.
Western Bean Cutworm Initiate scouting based on local pheromone trap captures of adults. If trap data are unavailable, begin scouting at VT.

R3 Stage: Milk*

(Begins 18 - 22 days after silking.)

R3 Corn Growth Stage - Milk

The R3 kernel is yellow outside, while the inner fluid is now milky white due to accumulating starch. The embryo is growing rapidly. Most of the R3 kernel has grown out from the surrounding cob. Silks are brown and dry or becoming dry.

Tips*

  • The kernels, well into their rapid rate of dry matter accumulation, are about 80% moisture. Cell division within the endosperm is essentially complete, so growth is mostly due to cell expansion and starch-fill.
  • Final yield depends on the number of kernels that develop and the final size or weight of the kernels.
  • Stress can still impact yield by reducing both factors.

GDUs Required** to reach R1 growth stage depends on maturity and is approximately:

CRMGDUs
80 1,405
90 1,580
100 1,760
110 1,940
120 2,120
Scout for these Common Pests and DiseasesTiming*
Anthracnose Top Dieback R3 through R5.
Common Rust V12 through R4.***
Corn Rootworm Larval feeding is most extensive in early through mid-July in most regions of the Corn Belt.
European Corn Borer As the true stalk develops and European corn borer larvae increase in size, larvae can be found tunneling into the stalk.
Eyespot V6 through R4. Disease primarily found in northern environments.
Goss's Wilt VE through R6. Disease primarily found in Nebraska and portions of other western states.
Gray Leaf Spot VT through R4.***
Northern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Southern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Stewart's Wilt Disease is initiated with corn flea beetle feeding from VE to V5. Leaf symptoms appear after R1.
Western Bean Cutworm Initiate scouting based on local pheromone trap captures of adults. If trap data are unavailable, begin scouting at VT.

R4 Stage: Dough*

(Begins 24 - 28 days after silking.)

R4 Corn Growth Stage - Dough

Continued starch accumulation in the endosperm causes the milky inner fluid to thicken to a pasty consistency. Usually 4 embryonic leaves have formed as the embryo has grown dramatically from the R3 stage. The shelled cob is a light red to pink. Toward the middle of R4, the embryo will stretch across more than half of the width of the kernel side. Just before R5, kernels along the length of the ear begin to dent or dry. The fifth (last) embryonic leaf and the lateral seminal roots have formed. If this seed is planted, these 5 embryonic leaves will appear the following season after germination and VE.

Tips*

  • The embryo continues to develop very rapidly.
  • Kernels are about 70% moisture and have accumulated about half their mature dryweight.

GDUs Required** to reach R1 growth stage depends on maturity and is approximately:

CRMGDUs
80 1,570
90 1,775
100 1,980
110 2,180
120 2,385
Scout for these Common Pests and DiseasesTiming*
Anthracnose Top Dieback R3 through R5.
Common Rust V12 through R4.***
Corn Rootworm Larval feeding is most extensive in early through mid-July in most regions of the Corn Belt.
European Corn Borer As the true stalk develops and European corn borer larvae increase in size, larvae can be found tunneling into the stalk.
Eyespot V6 through R4. Disease primarily found in northern environments.
Goss's Wilt VE through R6. Disease primarily found in Nebraska and portions of other western states.
Gray Leaf Spot VT through R4.***
Northern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Southern Leaf Blight VT through R4.***
Stewart's Wilt Disease is initiated with corn flea beetle feeding from VE to V5. Leaf symptoms appear after R1.
Western Bean Cutworm Initiate scouting based on local pheromone trap captures of adults. If trap data are unavailable, begin scouting at VT.

R5 Stage*

(Begins 35 - 42 days after silking.)

R5 Corn Growth Stage

At R5, all or nearly all kernels are dented or denting. The shelled cob is dark red. The kernels are drying down from the top, where a small hard layer of starch is forming. This starch layer appears shortly after denting as a line across the back of the kernel (the non-embryo side). With maturity, the hard starch layer and line will advance toward the cob. Accumulated starch is hard above the line but still soft below the line.

Tips*

  • Stress at this stage will reduce yields by reducing kernel weight.
  • At the beginning of R5, kernels have about 55% moisture content.

GDUs Required** to reach R1 growth stage depends on maturity and is approximately:

CRMGDUs
80 1,735
90 1,960
100 2,185
110 2,410
120 2,640
Scout for these Common Pests and DiseasesTiming*
Anthracnose Top Dieback R3 through R5.
Anthracnose Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Diplodia Ear Rot R5 through R6.
Diplodia Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
European Corn Borer Second-generation egg masses are laid in late-July through August.
Fusarium Ear Rot R5 through R6.
Fusarium Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Gibberella Ear Rot R5 through R6.
Gibberella Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Stewart's Wilt Disease is initiated with corn flea beetle feeding from VE to V5. Leaf symptoms appear after R1.
Western Bean Cutworm Scout ear tips for feeding.

R6 Stage: Physiological Maturity*

(Begins 55 - 65 days after silking.)

R6 Corn Growth Stage - Physiological Maturity

By the R6 stage, kernels have attained their maximum dry weight or dry matter accumulation. The hard starch layer has advanced completely to the cob. A black or brown abscission layer forms, moving progressively from the tip ear kernels to the basal kernels of the ear. It's a good indication of physiological maturity and signals the end of kernel growth. The husks and many leaves are no longer green, although the stalk may be.

Tips*

  • A hard early frost before the R6 stage may halt dry matter accumulation and cause premature black layer formation. This could reduce yields by causing delays in harvest (frost-damaged corn is slower to dry.)
  • To reduce potential frost problems, choose a hybrid that matures about 3 weeks before the average date of the first killing frost.
  • Kernel moisture averages 30 to 35%, but this can vary considerably between hybrids and environmental conditions. Safe storage requires 13 to 15% moisture.

GDUs Required** to reach R1 growth stage depends on maturity and is approximately:

CRMGDUs
80 1,895
90 2,145
100 2,390
110 2,640
120 2,890
Scout for these Common Pests and DiseasesTiming*
Anthracnose Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Diplodia Ear Rot R5 through R6.
Diplodia Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Fusarium Ear Rot R5 through R6.
Fusarium Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Gibberella Ear Rot R5 through R6.
Gibberella Stalk Rot R5 through R6.
Stewart's Wilt Disease is initiated with corn flea beetle feeding from VE to V5. Leaf symptoms appear after R1.

*Information from DuPont Pioneer and Iowa State University Extension.

**Hybrid growth is influenced by the growing environment. Individual results may vary.

*** Scout for these diseases earlier in seed production fields.

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