P&PDL Picture of the Week for
August 6, 2007

"Headless" Corn Plants

Bob Nielsen, Extension Corn Production Specialist,
Department of Agronomy, Purdue University

Occasionally, "topless" or "headless" corn plants are found along edges of fields; especially near wooded areas. Such plants have been "topped" several nodes above the ear and remnants of the whorl leaves can be found on the ground below the plants. Close inspection of the whorl leaves on the ground and the surviving "headless" corn plants reveals that something appears to have removed the young immature tassel prior to tassel emergence and left the whorl leaves behind. Tracks and scat in the affected area point to deer as the culprits. Based on circumstantial evidence (I've never caught deer red-handed at the scene of the crime), it appears that they pull the whorls out of the top of the plant, then somehow remove and eat the tassel, leaving the whorl leaves behind. Often one also finds damage to the ends of ears where the deer apparently chomped a segment out of the tip of the ear.

Click image to enlarge

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service