Pollen Analysis in Corn

Why Measuring Corn Pollen Quality?

Pollen viability, pollen amount and pollen shed dynamics are critical elements in both, corn breeding and corn seed production.

Efforts in breeding and seed production aim at maximizing pollen viability and quantity. Furthermore, pollen shed dynamics shall be optimized to improve the synchronization between male and female lines.

Adverse environmental conditions including abiotic stress can have a negative effect on these parameters, leading to a decrease in successful pollination and consecutively lower the yield.

The Amphasys P20 Pollen Analyzer is a reliable instrument for the measurement of pollen viability and quantity. 

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We provide support & consultancy for the optimization of your pollen analyses for breeding and production processes

Characterization of breeding, inbred and hybrid lines

    • Phenotyping pollen viability and quantity
    • Verifying male fertility restoration

Improvements in corn seed production

    • Identification of pollination deficiencies
    • Synchronization of male and female flowering
    • Optimization of female to male ratio
    • Pollen preservation and artificial pollination

Optimization of haploid production

    • Microspore development staging
    • Progression of embryoids development

Contact us for a free consultation offer!

Our pollen experts can give you valuable insights on the benefits of pollen quality monitoring in your specific case. We are happy to help you improve!

Characterization of Breeding, Inbred and Hybrid Lines

Phenotyping Corn Pollen Viability

Viable pollen is a basic requirement for successful pollination. However, the viability of pollen can be negatively impacted by many external factors such as heat, drought or the application of pesticides.

Phenotyping pollen quality with the Ampha P20 Pollen Analyzer simplifies the selection of highly performing inbred and hybrid lines. The ease of the measurement enables to increase pollen testing throughput, thereby speeding up your breeding program.

An illustration showing how corn pollen viability evolves

Pollen Viability Field Experiment

In a field trial, the pollen of three different varieties was collected and measured at different time points during the course of a day.

The illustration shows how pollen viability evolves throughout the day just before release.

Systematic pollen viability screening enables the evaluation of external influences such as heat stress, drought, or the application of pesticides on pollen viability. This allows you to evaluate plant growth conditions and choose suitable locations.

Improvements in Corn Seed Production

In order to maximize the female-to-male ratio in a corn seed production field, a thorough understanding of pollen viability and pollen shed behaviour of the male lines is crucial. The number of males per female and the pattern of how females are alternated by males can be adapted to the pollination performance of the males.

To ensure a full seed set, sufficient pollination is required. Especially in seed production, insufficient pollination has a big economic impact. 

Key parameters for a successful pollination are:

    • Identification of pollination deficiencies
    • Assessment of the dynamics of pollen shed to evaluate the synchronization of male and female flowering
    • Optimization of female to male ratio
    • Finetuning of pollen preservation and artificial pollination

Customer Success Story

The agtech company PowerPollen is specialized on rescue pollination.

Learn how they use our technology!

Todd Krone of PowerPollen

Todd Krone, CEO of PowerPollenSM

“We use the instrument to check pollen quality before pollination, to improve pollen preservation and for rescue pollinations when natural pollination was not sufficient to get a good seed yield.”

Analyze Pollen Shed Dynamics

The following examples from a field study show how you can design experiments for pollen phenotyping using the Ampha P20 Pollen Analyzer .

Pollen Collection Methods - Design of Pollen Traps

The picture shows a corn pollen trap consisting of a plastic cup covered by a mesh to prevent debris and insects from entering. The cup contains our AmphaCount counting buffer that stabilizes the pollen grains over a long period of time. The cup is fixed to a stick and can be placed in the field between rows.

For our experiment, we have used several pollen traps placed between rows and left them in the field for 20 days. In periodical intervals, the pollen suspension was collected and replaced with new buffer. 

Pollen Count - Cumulative Pollen Shed

At regular intervals, we measured the amount of pollen collected in the traps to gather insights into the dynamics of pollen shed. The graph shows the cumulated counts of pollen grains over time. Each curve represents one trap, all of which collected pollen of the same corn variety. The blue curve shows the average.

The experiment allows to determine the overall time and the period of most intense pollen shed. It also allows to indirectly determine the average pollen quantity shed by this specific line and its suitability for the targeted breeding purposes.

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Synchronization of Male and Female Flowering

Dynamics of Pollen Shed

The figure shows the dynamics of pollen shed. By taking the first derivative of the cumulative pollen shed curve of the above example, we were able to identify the peak of the shed and its duration. As you can see, 90% of pollen of this specific line was released within 7 days.

The data obtained from this experiment allows taking the measures needed to achieve synchronous flowering.

Synchronization in Hybrid Breeding

Knowing the receptivity of the female line and the pollen shedding behavior of the male line, it is possible to achieve synchronized flowering. The right time point and the right amount of pollen are important to obtain a full seed set.

Asynchronous Flowering

Visualization of hypothetical flowering of male corn lines

This graph shows the hypothetical pollen shed behaviour of three different male lines as it could be obtained from the experiment described above.

The analysis of pollen shed behaviors and their comparison allows to calculate the planting dates for a pair of females and males to achieve optimal synchronization of flowering.

Optimization of Female-to-Male Ratio

The time-resolved determination of pollen shed allows the characterization of different male lines. The pollen shed of one male line (red curve) is much lower than that of the second line (blue curve). The red variety would not lead to complete pollination and a full seed set would not be obtained.

Pollen phenotyping for each male line is crucial for economically profitable seed production and needs to be determined prior to reaching the production level.

The data generated with the Ampha P20 Pollen Analyzer, together with the seed set results, help to adapt the planting scheme to the line-specific properties and to optimize the female-to-male ratio.

Insufficient Pollen Quantity

Visualization of insufficient corn pollen quality

Take Home Message

  • The dynamics of pollen shed – duration, speed and peak – can be assessed by systematical sample collection in periodical intervals
  • The pollen shed curve, in combination with pollen viability analysis, is an indispensable indicator for the pollination potential of male lines
  • Studying the dynamics of pollen shed generates information that allows precise synchronization of male and female flowering

Contact us for a free consultation!

Our pollen experts can give you valuable insights on the benefits of pollen quality monitoring in your specific case. We are happy to help you improve!