Once a fixture of Iowa summers, corn detassling appears to have joined “walking beans” as an agriculture task of yesteryear. Jay Van Woerkom, Agronomy Sales Manager at Two Rivers Cooperative in Pella, says the only employers of detassling crews anymore are seed companies, adding that few local farmers even grow seed corn anymore.
Jay’s co-worker, Matt Van Weelden adds that while detassling is not gone, most area seed companies have outsourced the work to other areas of the state.
“It’s still pretty prevalent in seed corn production, it’s just a lot of those acres have shifted out of this area. A lot of it has shifted north of us, companies like Pioneer are real big with seed corn north of I-80,” said Van Weelden. “A lot of what we had around here – Hawkeye Hybrids [of Pella] – did a lot, but when they sold out to Monsanto, their production facilities ceased to exist around this area.”
Further limiting the availability of detassling work has been the usage of more machines to handle the task. In years past, detassling crews would be hired by individual farmers and the hard and physically demanding labor was often a popular way for teenagers to make a good amount of money in a relatively short amount of time.