“Bouquet Ears” are characterized by multiple ears on a single ear shank (also referred to as Multiple Ears on a Single Ear Shank Syndrome or “MESS”). In some cases as many as five or six “side” ears may develop forming a “bouquet”. Side ears may be well developed or may resemble blunt ears or severely arrested ears. Many probably failed to form kernels due to late silk emergence and lack of pollen.
Unknown. Some hybrids may be genetically prone to developing multiple ears on a single ear shank. A threshold genetic trait may be triggered by particular stress events that occur during primary ear formation. Dr. Bob Nielsen at Purdue University has proposed that more than one external “trigger” may enable the development of multiple ears to occur on these hybrids. He has observed that the “bouquet” effect is more prevalent and severe in late plantings where silk clipping by rootworm beetles prevented kernel set on the primary ear (i.e., possibly minimizing or negating apical dominance against secondary ears).
Follow guidelines for minimizing crop stress conditions that might impact normal development of the primary ear, including using appropirate pest management practices, maintaining appropriate soil fertility, and selecting adapted hybrids and seeding rates consistent for soil yield potential and date of planting. Information on susceptibility to the bouquet ears among hybrids is limited. Given that the frequency of bouquet ear problems is usually rare and limited to a small perecentage of plants within a field, it may not warrant major consideration in hyrbid selection. Favorable growing conditions may sometimes result in more than one ear per plant in certain hybrids especially at lower than normal plant populations.
Ciampitti, I. 2014. Abnormal Corn Ears. Available at https://www.agronomy.k-state.edu/extension/documents/crop-production/Abnormal_Corn_Ears.pdf [URL verified 3/28/2019]. Kansas State University.
Elmore, R.W. and L. J. Abendroth. 2006. Multiple ears per node: Iowa 2006. Available at https://crops.ext ension.iastate.edu/corn/production/management/mid/multiple.html [URL verified 3/28/2019].
Nielsen, R.L. 2006. A problem with “Bouquets”. Purdue Univ. Available at
http://www.kingcorn.org/news/articles.06/Bouquets-0912.html [URL verified 3/28/2019].