Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts got a firsthand account of what detasseling corn is like July 25.
Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman, neither of whom had ever detasseled before, spent about two hours at a Bayer Crop Science test plot near Goehner.
They joined crews from NATS Detasseling to learn about the industry and why it’s important for corn and Nebraska’s agriculture.
“Detasseling is important to Nebraska because it means our seed companies can get a pure seed, and that’s important to farmers,” Ricketts said.
He also said it gives kids a chance to earn and save money for college and adults—like those who drive the buses—extra income to support their families.
Bayer site manager Jim Dowling said the purpose of pulling the tassels off corn is to create a hybrid seed. Not all the rows are pulled—only the female rows—so that male rows can cross-pollinate them.
The female rows are cut with a big mower-like machine to eliminate their tassels, and then the work crews come in.
“Cutting is not 100% effective, so that’s why we utilize detasselers,” Dowling said.
The crews often walk each field twice to make sure they haven’t missed any tassels.
“So I should not sweat it if I miss one?” Ricketts asked his squad leader, Bernadette Fulton, 15, of Lincoln.
Fulton has been detasseling for three years. She showed Ricketts what to look for and where to pull as he walked the 1/2-mile field down and back.
“Scan forward, scan back, looking up, looking down,” Fulton told him.
“It starts to become second-nature,” added Shaylee Wagner, 19, also of Lincoln.
Dowling and the detasselers also spoke to Ricketts about safety in the fields. He watched a 22-minute safety video that all field workers must see before entering a field.
The video highlighted the potential dangers of coming into contact with pesticides, walking over uneven ground, watching for irrigation pivots and their tracks and signs of heat exhaustion.
Fulton and the crew presented Ricketts with his own stainless steel water jug with his name on it to make sure he stayed hydrated.
After his time in the field near Goehner, Ricketts and Wellman addressed Bayer’s teams from Beaver Crossing and Waco, visited Corteva’s facility in York and met with another detasseling crew near York.