Monday, January 2, 2017

Second Corn Harvest

Things didn't go well for my recent corn crop. Oh, it started out well enough. The soil had been slightly improved, and the seed germination was good. I got the plants thinned on time. No diseases or pests showed up. The feral turkeys didn't discover them. Nor did the goat get loose and eat them. The weather was just fine up until tassel time, then things went downhill. Waaaay downhill. 

A bout of twisty winds knocked the plants around and flattened some. I managed to straighten up most of the plants just in time for pollen release. Then it started raining and the sun disappeared. Day after day, no sun. Day after day, light rain. I never actually saw any pollen, but somehow, some time, the plants managed to release some. 

Time went by. The weather never picked up to be "corn weather". It stayed wet and chilly. Two weeks ago the tassels went all brown, though they never dried. With the daily light rain, they became rotting, mushy brown blobs growing black mold. I carefully opened a few ears to see what was going on, and was sad to see that the end of the ears were all moldy. I could feel with my fingers that some ears were filling out here and there, so as soon as the leaves started browning on the outside of the ears, I pulled the plant. Why? They were rotting away! 

I kept the ears attached to the stalk, removing the upper stalk that was already rotting. I brought these to the house, setting them up under the roof where they would be protected from the drizzle and wet. I hoped to let the ears complete their maturation phase, metabolizing the nutrients from the stalk and cobs In order to mature the seeds. That was the plan, at least. 

The plan apparently worked. While the parts of the cobs that did get pollinated and produced seed were small and erratic, I did get seed for the next generation. Surly not the crop that I had been anticipating. But such is the life of a farmer. Nothing is guaranteed. 

(I'm holding my best ear of corn.)

This corn seed is my second generation. I started with 12 seeds planted in unimproved soil. From there I replanted what corn seeds I had gotten into slightly improved soil. Yes, the plants grew better though not great. Yes, they produced more and better cobs in spite of the lousy weather. But all is not lost because I now have even more corn seed for replanting and I will once again have another cycle of soil improvement before replanting. One of these days I will get to see my first great crop of corn! 

I ended up with two quarts of corn seed of varying quality. I'm surprised I got that much. I'll sort out the best looking seed for replanting my next crop, but hold onto the rest in case I have vacant land where I can plant the extra. This seed has come from the plants that were hardscrabble enough to survive poor soil and challenging growing conditions. About 10% of the plants failed, thus those that did produce are better suited for my conditions. Looks like I'm selecting for pretty tough plants. 

So the plan of having some corn crop to feed to the chickens this year did not come to fruition. But in a couple of weeks I will be ready to try again. 

1 comment:

  1. Something very similar happened with our corn this summer. One of the native types produced okay, but the dent corn I really wanted to thrive rotted inside the husks after they filled out. Fungi and rain at the wrong time.