Estimating Date of Grain Corn Maturity from Silking Stage

Silking marks the start of the reproductive phase of development and begins when the silk becomes visible outside the husk and pollination occurs. Each silk is attached to an ovule which will become a kernel if pollinated. The CHU accumulation from planting to silking is about 50 to 55% of that required for the plant to go from planting to physiological maturity.

While this could be used as a general guideline, temperature and relative maturity of the hybrid must be taken into consideration. Plus, the duration of each stage during grain fill can also be influenced by soil fertility, cultural practices (plant populations), and moisture.

If we consider CHU accumulation and maturity rating of the hybrid, we can calculate the number of corn heat units required for a crop to pass from silking to physiological maturity. As mentioned above, the period from planting to silking takes approximately 50 to 55% of the total heat units required for the crop. Therefore, the remaining 45 to 50% would be needed to carry the crop from silking to physiological maturity. The table below identifies the approximate CHU requirements to bring a corn crop from silking to physiological maturity based on a range of CHU maturity ratings.

Table 1: Approximate Corn Heat Unit (CHU) Requirements from Silking to Physiological Maturity for Various Hybrid Maturities.

CHU Rating of the HybridApproximate CHU Required from Silking to Physiological Maturity
2100945 to 1050
2200990 to 1100
23001035 to 1150
24001080 to 1200
25001125 to 1250
26001170 to 1300

Once a crop’s CHU requirement from silking to physiological maturity is determined, the next step is to establish the number of CHU that can reasonably be expected from the date of silking until the end of the season.  Referring to Tables 2 and 3 (where dates of expected additional CHU accumulation from two silking dates in the season), we can estimate the approximate date when a given accumulation of CHU past silking is reached.

For example, if the silking stage of a 2200 CHU hybrid grown near Morden occurred around July 18, the crop would require approximately 990 to 1100 CHU to go from silking to physiological maturity (see Table 1 and use 1100 for simplicity).  According to Table 2, the accumulation of 1100 CHU starting July 18 would occur by approximately September 5 in Morden.  It is important to keep in mind that these numbers are estimates based on historical observations.  Some years will have temperatures above or below average, causing the dates to shift forward or back.

Table 2: Date of Expected CHU Additional Accumulation from July 18 at Various Manitoba Locations (Source: Environment Canada averages 1971-2000).

From July 18+900+1000+1100+1200+1300
Elm Creek28-Aug03-Sep09-Sep17-Sep27-Sep

Table 3: Date of Expected CHU Additional Accumulation from July 25 at Various Manitoba Locations (Source: Environment Canada averages 1971-2000).

From July 25+900+1000+1100+1200+1300
Elm Creek08-Sep15-Sep25-Sep08-Oct

Remember that this is only estimating time from silking to physiological maturity, not when harvest can start.  Field dry down rate from physiological maturity to start of harvest is influenced primarily by weather factors and, to a lesser degree, by hybrid characteristics.  In simple terms, warmer temperatures and lower humidity encourage rapid field drying of corn grain.  Because moisture loss is greatest just after physiological maturity, both because the weather is usually warmer and because wet kernels lose water more easily, it stands to reason that a corn crop that matures earlier in the season will dry down faster than a crop that matures later in the season.

Updated from CropChatter post made in July 2015.