Hand Pollinating Corn for Seed Saving

Hand Pollinating Corn in the Home Garden

Saving seeds from corn can be tricky if you’re in an area where different varieties of corn are growing nearby.  If you want to save seed from corn with no worries about cross-pollination, hand pollinating is a good thing to do.

As you’ll see in the video below, there’s a little work involved, and you’ll need a few supplies.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s a bit more complicated than just sitting back and letting the wind do the work for you.

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Do I Really Need to Do This?

Do you really need to bother with the bags in your back yard garden plot?  It depends… mostly on whether or not you intend to save the seeds from your corn to sell, share, or just to plant again in the future.

If you’re saving seed from open-pollinated corn (all heirlooms are open-pollinated), there’s a chance that your corn will be pollinated by another variety of corn from another location.  There are a couple of reasons why this might be a problem.

Cross Pollination in Corn

Let’s look at 2 potential scenarios:

If you grow heirloom corn in your garden plot, and it gets pollinated by another heirloom corn from your neighbor’s garden plot, the results will be unpredictable.  Any seeds you save might produce direct offspring of the heirloom you intentionally planted, or they might be a genetic cross between your heirloom and your neighbor’s heirloom.  Your results can vary from plant to plant and from ear to ear.

In this scenario, the worst possible outcome is that you grow corn that isn’t as good as last year’s corn – no big deal, right?  You just get some fresh heirloom seed and you start again.

But if you grow heirloom corn in your garden plot, and it gets pollinated by corn from a commercial corn operation, you may inadvertently save seed with genetically engineered traits.

It all depends on what corn is growing in your area.

Read more about pollination: Promiscuous Plants and the Pollinators they Tantalize


Thanks to Seed Savers Exchange and the Organic Seed Alliance for sharing the helpful video.

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  • Leslie says:

    I am sure I don’t care this much… More of a by chance person, positive the native populations did ‘t brother this much.

    1. JJM says:

      But then the Natives weren’t concerned with GMO contamination OR getting sued by Monsanto.
      Quite frankly, I do not see myself going to the trouble of bagging, until some point that I wish I had.

    2. Joe s. says:

      The Native populations didn’t have to worry about GMO corn pollen. We’re growing heirloom corn in our garden but across the road is 200 acres of commercial corn that I’m sure was cooked up in Monsanto’s labs. i don’t want that crap to pollinate our corn if we decide to use it as seed next year as it likely won’t grow.

  • bob h says:

    The native populations didn’t have neighbors w/ GMO crops to cross pollinate w/ their native crops.

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