Iowa Corn Detasseling In Full Swing

Jul 9, 2018

A Midwest summertime tradition is in full swing -- corn detasseling.  Seed corn companies hire thousands of mostly teenagers for about 20 days to remove by hand the very top of the corn plant to produce hybrid varieties. DuPont Pioneer is one of Iowa’s largest companies. Production Manager Colby Entriken oversees facilities in Dysart, Toledo and Reinbeck in northeast Iowa. He said the company has added more safety experts in 2018. 

"We also bring in a field nurse as a resource,” Entriken said. “Each of the three sites also has an EMT on staff.” 

Entriken said they have procedures in place to keep track of all the detasslers.

"They have to know which row each of their workers are in so we can track their progress in the field,” he said.  "As we get higher heat index days we kick them out of the field when it hits 105. We shut them down right at 2 p.m." Entriken says there’s also a centrally-located decontamination trailer that can be used if the workers are inadvertently sprayed by a crop duster.

The minimum age to detassel in Iowa is 14. Those as young as 12 can do the work in Illinois and Nebraska.  Entriken says he has many crew leaders who started in their teens and are now in their 50s and 60s.