Several beetles including Japanes beetles will clip the silk off. You can put pollen on the stubs to help fill the ear up.
Stress can make organisms do strange things. Remember the frog DNA from Jurassic Park?TZ -OH6 wrote:Native corns do that stuff all the time, so it might be a trait of that heirloom if it had a lot of those short season varieties in its background. The frequency could be increased by inbreeding (seed repeatedly taken from a small plot) assuming that the variety generally doesn't do it very much. It took a lot of work to breed it out of the modern hybrid sweet and dent corns. That being said I got some kernels on a tassel of Burpees Delectable hybrid a couple of years ago. I suppose odd conditions could make it show up. My Painted Mountain, which is a mixed genepool of dozens of western native corns, does all kinds of freeky things.