Study of the phenomenon of barrenness in corn
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Barrenness in corn is one of the most commonly observed phenomena exhibited by this prominent cereal, and one of the least understood. Why various, seemingly growthy and hardy stalks of corn fail to produce grain has been a source of wonder and comment to both practical farmers and agricultural investigators as well. Strange as it may seem, however, there has been practically no work done to discover why the maize plant, or any other grain normally bisexual, should be sterile. Many theories have been advanced to explain the phenomenon such as lack of food, lack of constitutional vigor, thickness of planting, and inbreeding. It has also been suggested that the condition might be hereditary, but this has in the main been generally rejected as unsound, thinking that since a barren stalk produces no seed it must surely breed itself out. Whether or not any or all of these theories will stand the test of accurate experimentation remains to be seen. On the other hand it is an undoubted fact that the barren tendency still persists in all sub-species and varieties of corn. Farmers realize their detrimental effect and are continually asking for a method whereby they may be eliminated from their fields. Nearly all attempts to eliminate them have failed so far because it is very hard to say a stalk will be barren at tasseling time and once past that time the damage is done and any interference is more than useless. Seeing then that the subject has an economic bearing as well as a purely scientific interest, what are the factors that influence barrenness in corn? The object of this work was to make a study of barren stalks of corn to discover the causes of barrenness, if possible, and to find out the factors which influence barrenness in any way.