Burrus Detasseling on WAND-TV

Olivia Rahe, Communications Lead

Sarah Michaels of WAND-TV’s AgriBusiness Today interviewed Todd Burrus to discuss the seed corn production activity of detasseling. Burrus uses an inter-plant method of growing seed corn. During detasseling, tassels are left on the male rows and removed from the female rows, allowing for cross pollination.

When Burrus Seed was started in 1935, detasseling was done entirely by hand. The corn products at that time were much taller than today’s hybrids, and the detasselers actually wore wooden stilts. Todd’s father Martin was among the first who worked as a Burrus Seed detasseler. We even have a pair of the stilts displayed in our Jacksonville office.

Burrus Seed detasselers in the 1930s and 40s wearing wooden stilts

Today, 80% of detasseling is accomplished with a mechanical puller in two trips through the fields. The remaining 20% are removed by hand by detasselers in personnel carriers. Local high school students largely make up the annual detasseling crew. As Sarah said, in this area “it’s a teenage right of passage.”

“We try to create an environment where the kids understand as long as they do the work, they can have fun, too,” said Todd. “Honestly, 50 years later I still have fun at work, so it’s a good thing to learn.”

Watch the full AgriBusiness Today segment here: Detasseling to secure genetic purity