Pollen Analysis in Corn

Why Measuring Corn Pollen Quality?

Sufficient pollen viability, pollen amount and pollen shed dynamics are essential for a high seed set and are indispensable for a cost-efficient seed production.

Identifying high pollen quality lines as early as during the breeding process saves both time and resources not only in breeding, but also later in production research and seed production. Additionally, pollen analysis provides breeders with an in-depth knowledge about the genotype-phenotype interaction. Furthermore, it helps to avoid environmentally induced plant stress by suggesting the proper line placement in respect to the climate zones which decreases the chance of unsuccessful pollination. 

Thanks to our technology, you can now produce a reliable measurement of pollen viability and quantity to:

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Characterize Breeding, Inbred and Hybrid Lines

Phenotype 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 helps for selection of highly performing inbred and hybrid lines. The ease of the measurement using our technology, simplifies the  and enables throughput pollen testing.

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 over the course of one day.

The illustration shows how pollen viability evolves throughout the day and how differences between lines can be seen.

Phenotype Corn Pollen Quantity

Besides pollen viability, the determination of the pollen quantity is one of the main requisites for a cost-efficient seed production. Determine the total pollen amount per line shed, helps already in breeding selecting the proper male lines.

Improve Corn Seed Production

In order to maximize the female-to-male ratio in a corn seed production field, a thorough understanding of pollen shed behavior of the male lines is crucial. A sufficient pollination is required to reach a full seed set, especially in seed production where insufficient pollination has a strong economic impact. natura

The number of females per male and the pattern of how females are alternated by males can be adapted to the pollination performance of the males.

Analyze Pollen Shed Dynamics

The following examples from a field study show how you can design experiments for pollen phenotyping using our technology:

Pollen Collection Methods - Design of Pollen Traps

The picture shows a corn pollen trap fixed to a stick, consisting of a plastic cup containing our AmphaCount counting buffer that stabilizes the pollen grains over a long period of time.

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, the amount of pollen in the traps was measured to gather insights on 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 duration and the days with 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.

Synchronization of Male and Female Flowering in Hybrid Seed Production

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

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).

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

Visualization of insufficient corn pollen quality

Pollen preservation and artificial pollination

The viability of freshly shedding pollen is negatively impacted by many environmental factors. To avoid putting low quality pollen into storage, frequently monitoring of the viability of freshly shed pollen is key (Power pollen). This ensures only pollen of the highest viability is placed into preservation. After preservation pollen viability is measured a second time to verify the high quality. This enables you:

  • Monitor the viability of freshly shedding pollen
  • Place high viability pollen into preservation
  • Measure the viabilty of pollen post preservation
  • Apply pollen on-demand to receptive females

Amphasys Pollen Analyzers

Amphasys Pollen Analyzers provide pollen quality metrics which enable you to improve your plant breeding and seed production processes:

The Ampha Z40 is a high-end laboratory device. It offers full flexibility for all research tasks and predefined templates for routine quality control.

The Ampha P20 is a mobile high-tech instrument for greenhouses and fields. With its easy handling and automated data analysis you get immediate results on site.

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