Farm Progress

Does a hybrid's cob color matter?

Facts and myths about corncob color in the seed industry.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

November 18, 2016

3 Min Read

Do corncobs add money to your bottom line? Unless you’re a livestock producer who obtains crushed cobs for bedding, the answer is a resounding “no.” So why would you care about cob color?

Daniel Bechman, product specialist for Beck’s, says there’s no factual reason to explain why most farmers should care about cob color. Yet when he speaks to farmers and mentions that a hybrid has a white cob, some eyebrows go up. That response is based on history, not fact, he says.

Here is his explanation about why some people think cob color matters, even though there’s no connection to cob color and yield today.

IPF: What cob colors are common in the industry today?


Bechman: Most people are used to seeing red cobs. However, some hybrids today have white cobs. One of the best performers in our lineup currently has a white cob. Still other hybrids have pink cobs.

IPF: Why does cob color vary?

Bechman: It’s strictly a matter of genetic inheritance. Cob color is a trait that is inherited, like hair color in people. It depends on the color of the cob in the two inbred parents used to produce the hybrid. If both inbred parents have white cobs, the hybrid will also have a white cob.

IPF: Why do some hybrids have a pink cob, rather than a deep red or white cob?

Bechman: That happens in some situations where plant breeders cross an inbred that happens to have a red cob with an inbred that has a white cob.

IPF: Is there any correlation between cob color and yield, disease resistance, or other performance factors?


Bechman: No. Cob color by itself doesn’t affect yield, disease resistance or anything else. It’s simply a trait that comes from inbred parent lines. If an inbred line has a white cob, it was selected because it was superior in yield or other agronomic characteristics. Selection had nothing to do with cob color. A white cob happened to come along with the other traits.

IPF: Why do some farmers still balk when they hear a hybrid has a white cob?

Bechman: It goes back to history. Many years ago there were some very popular hybrids on the market that ran into problems with disease susceptibility and standability. They happened to have white cobs. Farmers assumed there was a connection, and that any hybrid with a white cob would have those issues.

IPF: Is there a connection?

Bechman: No. The inbreds behind those genetics at the time happened to have a white cob. Susceptibility to disease or stalk quality issues had nothing to do with cob color. Those genetics are by and large no longer in the industry. That past history shouldn’t prevent you from considering a white cob hybrid today.

Daniel Bechman is the son of this reporter, Indiana Prairie Farmer Editor Tom Bechman.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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