When a corn ear bends backward and kernels are missing from the outer end, this condition is classified as “tip back.” While lost kernels are often associated with poor pollination, some tip back can be expected from certain weather conditions and is an anticipated part of the late-growing season.
Though the cause of tip back and kernel loss still isn’t scientifically proven, agronomists usually associate it with stress. According to the University of Illinois, drought, loss of leaf area or lack of nitrogen can result in stress that lowers photosynthesis and in turn, decreases the sugar supply.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to restore your missing kernels, and even successful fields can experience varying amounts of tip back. If your fields continually experience severe tip back, ask your agronomist for recommendations on how to minimize hybrid stress to help increase your kernel count.
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