• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Anne Miller
  • Mike Haasl
  • Pearl Sutton
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • r ranson
  • Burra Maluca
  • Joseph Lofthouse
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • Leigh Tate
  • Carla Burke
gardeners:
  • Greg Martin
  • Jay Angler
  • John F Dean

Reed's Ohio Valley Flint Corn

 
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How long does it take to make a new kind of corn? For me it's taken about 6 or 7 years just to get started. The first two or three years were focused on sweet corn and I accumulated hundreds of varieties, modern hybrids and old heirlooms, plus Joseph Lofthouse's AD. Project went OK, in creating an extremely diverse  landrace before I dropped it when I figured out that for me sweet corn is a waste of time. It's a summer time treat, not food IMO and around here everybody and their dog sells it for prices I couldn't touch as a producer. So to heck with sweet corn, I’ll just let the woman buy at the roadside like she does anyway. I did achieve a massively diverse seed cash and I kept it in case I want to mix it in to something later, knowing I'd have to select the shrunken kernels back out in future seasons.

So, new idea, Flour corn. I blew another couple of seasons and some more $$ building up a landrace of it. Lots of shorter season western strains including Painted Mountain and Carol Deppe's "manna" family. Some others in there too like the more eastern Cherokee White Flour, Hickory King and some others. The eastern ones are all way too long season for my tastes. Also threw in a great grex I got from a friend who had developed it from shorter season mix of eastern strains. Well, wouldn't ya know, flour corn is a waste of time for me too, although not as bad as sweet. It's awful prone to mold and the like in my climate especially if I get it in too late and maturity falls in line with the arrival of the fall earworms. The worms are bad enough on their own but even if they just chew on it a little bit the rest molds, yuck! Still again I ended p with another diverse seed stash.

Now and although it remains to be seen in my own experience, I came to the conclusion for what I want, a flint corn is probably preferable.

A flint, or mostly flint corn, from what I can gather has greatest potential to be used like I want and that is to make a gritty, crumbly cornbread that I can slather with butter and eat with my ham and beans, or add honey on top of the butter and call it breakfast. Anyway I won't go on any more about what is best for what use because, well, fact is I don't have enough experience to know what I'm talking about on that topic.

But good or bad my flint corn project is now cut in stone and got underway three years ago. Oddly with a non flint variety called Zapalote Chico.  It is an old Mexican landrace and although is all wrong for most of my goals it has one extremely interesting property. It makes a compound called maysin in its silks and fall ear worms don’t like that compound at all. I have confirmed that along with an abundance of  extremely tight husks Zapalote Chico is bullet proof against the worms and about any other of the various bugs that commonly attack my corn, opening it up to the molds. I have even had a example where a squirrel gave up in tearing through the husks, poor thing it was almost there, stopping just a couple husks short of the prize.

So the ZC anti worm properties is critical but now I got to turn it into flint. My foundation for that is crossing it to flint corns of course. I want my corn to also be pretty so I can maybe sell it as an ornamental as well as feed it to critters and eat it myself. I don’t want it all mixed up though like what is commonly known as Indian corn. I want something like Carol Deppe’s Cascade Ruby Gold. Where each ear is a single solid color but the ears come in a variety of colors. I found another flint corn called Bronze Beauty that has that same trait. It is an old eastern variety.

I mixed those three all up last year, detasseling hand pollinating to make the initial hybrids in both directions. The result of that is starting to tassel right now and looking pretty good.

The different colors on different ears, a lot of you might already know comes from color in the pericarp. That’s the outer layer on the seed kernel. It is apparently quite variable but it is part of the mother plant so it is the same on all kernels of an individual ear.

Mixed up ears have color in the alerone. That’s a thin layer under the pericarp and it’s genetic from both parents from what I understand so it gets all mixed up. In my project I’m trying very hard to not let aleurone color in my corn from the start and select it out if and when it does show up.

The starchy part of the kernel called the endosperm is either soft like in flour corn or hard in flint corn. It also varies but for the most part is just yellow or white. I’m not worried right now on purity in that regard because white is my preference there and white is recessive. A mix on a single ear, assuming there is no aleurone color will theoretically just show up visually by making the uniform pericarp appear to have two shades. Since white is recessive all I have to do is plant only the lighter of the two shades and I don’t have to cull entire ears like I may have to do if any aleurone color shows up.

So, right now some of last year’s seed is growing in a semi isolated patch planted later to avoid crossing with another patch. The other patch is kernels selected from the sweet and flour grexes from prior years along with some more of the new flint ZC/flint seeds.

I didn’t want to just discard all that work and genetic diversity from those other projects. So, this mixed patch is an effort to bring some other traits I liked from them into the new flint project. Introducing alerone color is my biggest concern and although I carefully selected just seed that appears not to have it, I suspect it will show up. Since I don’t really know how aleurone color is inherited I’ll keep these two divisions of the project separate for the foreseeable future.

Some of the other corns in those old mixes along with the Lofthouse AD are Lofhouse Harmony Grain Corn. I found some nice flinty seeds in Harmony with cool star pattern pericarp and made sure it was included. Also a touch of wild corn Zea diploperennis crossed both with flora and sweet mixes. The Z dip is fun stuff, growing lots of tillers and making lots and lots of ears over a period instead of maturing all at once. Aunt Mary’s is a sweet corn of note, growing wonderfully in my garden with big ears of 8 to 12 rows and big kernels. A green kernel western flour corn whose name escapes me at the moment is also notable for its drought tolerance; I had it grow nicely to maturity one time with scarcely a drop of water in the last 60 days or so although secondary ears aborted.

There are hundreds  of varieties in those old mixes altogether including modern sweet hybrids kept around for their reported disease tolerances,  corns with strong stalks I think originating from the Iowa Stiff Stalk lines, corns with lots of strong prop roots.

In the end I hope to have my varied pericarp flint corn, maturing in around 100 days to dry down. Drought tolerant, disease tolerant and worm proof. I can plant it early and have it mature weeks before the competition for fall decorations. Or if conditions dictate I can plant late without losing it to worms and mold. I can feed it to my critters and most of all I can have my real corn bread, corn chips or whatever else without adding any wheat flour. Or at least that’s the plan.






 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've finally gotten around to sorting my corn. Still don't know for sure how I want to go on next year so I think I'm going to keep it on the ears so I won't forget details about particular ones.

I ultimately want a flint or at least mostly flint. I also want uniform color on any single ear but varied color between ears so I made sure the mix had lots of variation in the pericarp. And It's real important to have resistance to the fall worms that I found in the Mexican landrace, Zapalote Chico. Toward that end all of my corn from this year is 1/2 ZC and 1/2 something else with the crosses going both ways. It wasn't random though, I grew two plots of each type and detassed and hand pollinated. That was last year and those seeds were grown random this year.

I don't want any aleurone color in my corn as it can vary between kernels on the same ear and ruin the uniformity of an individual ear. Variation of endosperm between yellow and white can do that too but I prefer white and some of the varieties grown this year had yellow or even orange. I did that on purpose to get more diversity into my initial seeds and don't se it as much of a problem as white is recessive and therefore easy to select for in later generations. I'm not so sure about the orange because I think it has to do with carotene content and think it may not be related to they yellow/white relationship, I just don't know. In any event the high carotene stains I used have other characteristics that I do what so if it is a problem I'll deal with it later. The yellow/white endosperm, assuming absence of aleurone color shows up easily enough even under dark pericarp as two different shades.

I didn't know how aleurone color was inherited and still don't really but I think it must be recessive as I had a little bit of it show up even though no seed with aleurone color was planted.

The ZC has rather short conical ears in and in crossing to varieties with long slender ears and drastically different numbers of rows I didn't know what would come out. I was afraid maybe I'd get long ears that stuck out the shucks or something awful like that but happily that didn't happen. It seems, without enough evidence to know for sure that the structure of the ear as in length, number and tightness of the shucks, number of kernel rows follows mostly from the mother. ZC mothers produced for the most the conical ears and the others in line with their mothers. Pericarp color, color in the stalks and tassels, height of the plants seems to have mixed up pretty randomly. Time to blooming also varied widely but enough were in the "early group" to select them primarily as next years seed. Fast maturity is another weapon against the fall worms as they don't get here till at least mid August. The chemical compound found in ZC that inhibits the worms is important in case I plant the patch late or maybe grow more than one successive crop he same year. Maybe even two generations the same year, I have had some success at that already.

Anyway my seed for next year is far from a pure flint, lots more work to do. I was thinking though once I get the ZC anti worm trait well established in a more flinty mix I can toss in more pure flints later.

In my selection of this yea's seed first I eliminated the really tall and long maturity plants although I imagine some of their pollen sneaked in anyway.  As I was sorting the ears I also discarded the whole ear of any that had a seed with aleurone color because if I'm correct that it is recessive then all the seeds of that ear were carrying it.

Then I dumped most but not all that had a little bit of ear worm damage. I would like to have discarded them all but some have really nice pericarp color that I want to make sure is fully integrated in to mix, I'll just have to deal with the consequences of that late. The plants with ZC mothers seemed to pick up pinks and chinmark pattern in the pericarp much more that the oranges and reds in this generation.

So what I got left is a little under fifty ears, all very well mixed and all 1/2 ZC in one direction or the other.



 
Corn_2020.JPG
Ohio Valley Flint (G2) 2020
Ohio Valley Flint (G2) 2020
 
pioneer
Posts: 361
Location: Oregon 8b
89
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Is what I received from the very cobs pictured here? Man, I didn't realize just how much you put into this. Seeing them on the cobs just doesn't do it justice like the loose kernels do. Especially love the orange ones with striations. I'm gonna have to pick your ear about when and what to rogue out, since you've already accumulated so much knowledge about these genetics.
IMG_20210311_173026.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20210311_173026.jpg]
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yep, the seeds I sent you are from those very ears. You had mentioned you were already working with Carol's corns and wanted drought tolerance so the seeds I sent you are mostly from those descended maternally from her Cascade Ruby Gold and Cascade Cream Cap. They are the more shiny ones with fewer rows of large kernels such as those third from left and fourth from right in the top row. They also have the shortest maturity which is important for my purposes.

The "orange ones with striations" are what I call "chin mark" pattern. It is another variation of pericarp such as seen on Carol's "Starburst Manna" although in this case  it originated with some chinmark kernels I found in Joseph's Harmony Grain corn.

I didn't send any from it because it is so far off from what I though you were looking for but the ear, third from right in the top row is the most interesting of all. It's kernels look to be sweet, or else maybe just a little wrinkled from being harvested sooner than it should have been. I would cull it except for one thing. It was the fastest maturing of all, so much faster than the others that it is mostly selfed. Only the CCC and CRG descended plants tasseled in time to contribute a little pollen to it. The conical shape indicates it is maternally from the Zapalote Chico and it is far from the flint I'm looking for. I'll have to worry about that later though because I can't turn down something that matures that fast. It also grew at driest end of the patch, with competition from tree roots.

I'm going to plant two separate patches this year. One will be the same as those I sent you, along with seed from that fast ear. The other will be a random mix of all ears.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mathew Trotter wrote:Man, I didn't realize just how much you put into this. Seeing them on the cobs just doesn't do it justice like the loose kernels do.


Yea, that is kind of a crappy picture. I shelled off a nice amount from each ear and sealed them up but still have the ears with 1/2 or more kernels attached for my own reference. I'm terrible at record and note keeping so with corn it's easier to just keep the ears as I then just remember which ones I like best and why. Probably should go ahead and take some better pictures though.  
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 361
Location: Oregon 8b
89
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Reed wrote:I'm going to plant two separate patches this year. One will be the same as those I sent you, along with seed from that fast ear. The other will be a random mix of all ears.



I wasn't planning to do two patches, but I think I am now. I can't risk not getting a crop this year, and I had disease issues with my beans, so I was planning to move my whole three sisters planting into my main garden where there hopefully won't be the same disease pressure. But that also means things will be planted a lot closer together than I'd like, and thus likely need to be irrigated to actually pull off a reasonable yield. I'm planning to squeeze in about twice as many plants in only about 50% more space than last season. But that means I wouldn't be able to select for drought tolerance, which is definitely the direction I ultimately want to move in.

I also have more store bought seeds of Carol's CRG. Even though I planted a large enough patch to prevent inbreeding depression, I'm not sure how many were actually able to contribute pollen before the deer were able to get into and wreck my patch. I thought they'd only eaten my beans, but when I actually got in there to harvest the corn I only ended up with like 67 or so ears off of the 200ish plants.  I was planning to plant twice as much this year and sprinkle in some of the outside seed to maintain my genetic diversity, but now I have all of the diversity from your corn to keep things varied and to add additional drought tolerance. I don't want to waste that on a crop that I'm irrigating so I'll have my irrigated patch for eating and a non-irrigated patch that I actually select my seed from. I'm gonna end up with a lot of corn this year.

I feel a little guilty mixing your corn in with my previous selections. Mine was literally whatever did best with as much abuse and neglect as I could throw at it, and I didn't put nearly as much time and attention into the details as you have. I mean, size and fullness were the big things I was selecting for other than tolerance of my climate. My cobs ranged from 4.25" up to 9", with the 9" cobs obviously bumping up my per-plant yield and thus performance under drought conditions. The small cobs brought my average down to 0.23 pounds per plant from the 0.25 pounds or more that I was expecting. I'm aiming to increase the average cob length by about 2 inches over, and that should get me closer to 0.29 pounds per plant is length and weight stay proportional. I also found that a lot of cobs had more in-row spacing, which meant that they developed shorter, fatter kernels... the fuller cobs with tightly packed kernels were much easier to shell by hand, which is a trait I'd like to encourage even if I ultimately choose to shell mechanically going forward. I would like to know that I can shell enough corn for a meal without any kind of tools and not wreck my hands in the process, just in case I never need to.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think my corn produces nearly as well as it might if given the opportunity. Especially in the early years of starting a new project I tend to grow it quite crowded in effort to get a broader mix of genetics. With the crowding and without watering ears can be small, with secondary ears often aborting. My plan is always to plant it with a little more respect later on but never made it that far before abandoning the sweet and flour projects.

Now, my Ohio Valley Flint project, for better or worse is set in stone and I'm quite happy with the early results. I've considered reviving the flour project but just don't have space for two different kinds and like I said the soft flour corns are way more prone to molds and bugs than the flint. Enough so that the diseases themselves are very helpful in the selection process. I figure if you have 500 corn plants and 450 of them are badly effected by something awful and the other fifty not at all, then that's a pretty good start.  

I preserved quite a bit of genetics from those earlier projects in this one but it is going take a while to select a solid flint from it. At this point even though it isn't a solid flint it is well protected from the worms and molds, any genetics prone that that has already shown it's self and been culled. It is short enough season to mature two crops in one year with the first planted in late April and the second in mid July or so. I had trouble removing mature but not dry kernels from the cobs to plant in July but Carol Deppe said I could just dry them a little in the oven or a dehydrator and it worked! Actually though, with that descended from her CRG and CCC the artificial drying might not really be necessary.

I've often heard that for maximum yield a longer season corn is best but I don't buy that all, not at all. Sure a long season corn may produce more that a short one all else being equal but the long season one requires the whole time uninterrupted by a horrific drought, piles of giant hail stones, 70 mph wind and any of the other things that can end a harvest before it starts. Plus the long season one has no chance of starting over in the same year. And the long season one precludes the ability to grow something else before or after in the same spot. The way I see if for example, is that short season corn, plus short season beans equals a greater harvest than a long season crop of either one.

I've never had much luck with the three sisters planting, for one thing squash is just too hard to grow here anymore and it's hard to find beans that do very well in the shade of a corn patch. It might work better in spaced hills but I grow in rows. But I have developed a process that is working pretty good. If I plant corn first, when it is about mature but not dry yet I strip off most of the leaves and plant my beans. When I harvest the corn I strip off the rest of the leaves and leave the stalks for the beans to climb. Depending in timing I might also go ahead and scatter some turnip or radish seeds to get them started for when the beans are done. I used to wait till after the other harvests to plant the radishes but they need a little time to get established good and it isn't hard to pull out any that are competing too much with the other stuff. If I plant beans first I use the vines as mulch for the corn and strip the corn leaves and plant the radishes when it is starting to mature.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well it's almost two months before our official "frost free" date but it has been warm and I'm itching to plant more stuff. Also from looking at the satellite websites it looks like there just isn't a big enough, cold enough gob of air over the Arctic to give up another bad cold snap this year so I decided to see what happens if I push the boundary of when to plant corn in my area.

I had a little spot where I trialed cowpeas last year and just added a little composted wood chips on top, just leaving the cow pea vines there and dug 30 little holes with the hand digger. I went about 3 - 4 inches deep which is also pushing the boundary on that, as I always have planted corn about 2 inches deep.

I hand picked 90 kernels from my favorite ears and placed 3 in each hole. I don't know if any will come up but I spaced them enough that if lots do I can transplant some. Actually these kernels are mixed up enough that probably if only one came up, it would have enough genetic diversity to start a new variety of corn. If even just a dozen come up I will be thrilled. I'll still plant more later of course and more in line with the "normal" time to plant.

90Kernals.jpg
90 kernels planted 3-25-21
90 kernels planted 3-25-21
CP-CornPatch.jpg
corn in the old cowpea patch
corn in the old cowpea patch
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 361
Location: Oregon 8b
89
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My early potato planting was a total bust. But that's what I expected. It's definitely too early for me to start thinking about corn.

4 inches should be great for corn. I've heard that in arid climates it was common to plant corn up to 8 or even 18 inches deep... however deep you had to go to get consistent soil moisture for germination. The 18 inch figure sounds dubious to me, but considering the southwest tribes tended to plant their corn in massive clumps rather than neat rows, it seems a little more practical in that regard. And I guess if that's where the moisture is...

I'm tempted to follow suit and do some really deep plantings just to test it out.

Have you thought about adding in genetics from that nitrogen fixing corn they've been researching? I don't know if it's something that you could actually get your hands on, but I'm interested in getting that trait in my crop.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I planted deeper than usual mostly just on a whim. Curious if it might help prevent birds from pulling it up. Actually I have a pretty good method for that, weeds! I've discovered that I can just pull or hoe the weeds out of rows only and plant my corn, allowing the weeds between to keep growing. Later when the corn is six to eight inches tall but hard to even see because of the weeds I then pull or hoe the weeds down and use them for mulch. Works a charm, the camouflaged effect is extremely effective at preventing bird damage. The corn at that point generally looks a little puny for being starved of light and nutrient but is tall enough to no longer be of interest to the birds. Then, almost overnight it explodes into growth.  At that point the corn hogs the light, water and nutrients and the weeds don't come back.

I'm not a hundred percent sure I believe the stuff I've read about the nitrogen fixing corn but am curious about it. From what I understand it is basically a symbiotic relationship with some bacteria and a sap or whatever generated by the corns prop roots. I already select for strong prop roots and multiple tiers of of them so figure if there is anything to the nitrogen fixing thing it might just show up on it's own.

The Zapalote Chico that is integral to my project because of it's worm resistance is interesting in how it grows prop roots. If it gets lodged by wind, it tends to stand back up on it's own pretty rapidly but any part of the stalk left close to the ground immediately sprouts roots. It ends up with a curled base with lots of roots along that part that is horizontal to the ground even if not touching the ground. Makes for a bit of a messy patch but is bullet proof to further lodging if another storm hits. I see the same behavior in Johnson Grass and in perennial teosinte. Since I am after a dry corn rather than fresh sweet corn so it all gets harvested at the same time, the messy patch after such an event is a tolerable inconvenience.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 361
Location: Oregon 8b
89
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


From https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2006352:

Plants are associated with a complex microbiota that contributes to nutrient acquisition, plant growth, and plant defense. Nitrogen-fixing microbial associations are efficient and well characterized in legumes but are limited in cereals, including maize. We studied an indigenous landrace of maize grown in nitrogen-depleted soils in the Sierra Mixe region of Oaxaca, Mexico. This landrace is characterized by the extensive development of aerial roots that secrete a carbohydrate-rich mucilage. Analysis of the mucilage microbiota indicated that it was enriched in taxa for which many known species are diazotrophic, was enriched for homologs of genes encoding nitrogenase subunits, and harbored active nitrogenase activity as assessed by acetylene reduction and 15N2 incorporation assays. Field experiments in Sierra Mixe using 15N natural abundance or 15N-enrichment assessments over 5 years indicated that atmospheric nitrogen fixation contributed 29%–82% of the nitrogen nutrition of Sierra Mixe maize.

Author summary

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants, and for many nonlegume crops, the requirement for nitrogen is primarily met by the use of inorganic fertilizers. These fertilizers are produced from fossil fuel by energy-intensive processes that are estimated to use 1% to 2% of the total global energy supply and produce an equivalent share of greenhouse gases. Because maize (Zea mays L.) is a significant recipient of nitrogen fertilization, a research goal for decades has been to identify or engineer mechanisms for biological fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in association with this crop. We hypothesized that isolated indigenous landraces of maize grown using traditional practices with little or no fertilizer might have evolved strategies to improve plant performance under low-nitrogen nutrient conditions. Here, we show that for one such maize landrace grown in nitrogen-depleted fields near Oaxaca, Mexico, 29%–82% of the plant nitrogen is derived from atmospheric nitrogen. High levels of nitrogen fixation are supported, at least in part, by the abundant production of a sugar-rich mucilage associated with aerial roots that provides a home to a complex nitrogen-fixing microbiome.



Here's the pop science article from the University of Wisconsin:
https://news.wisc.edu/corn-that-acquires-its-own-nitrogen-identified-reducing-need-for-fertilizer/




I've discovered that I can just pull or hoe the weeds out of rows only and plant my corn, allowing the weeds between to keep growing. Later when the corn is six to eight inches tall but hard to even see because of the weeds I then pull or hoe the weeds down and use them for mulch.



That's a great way to do it, and basically what I was planning to do with my squash. I don't know if I can risk my corn crop to weeds, since most of the stuff in dealing with is perennial stuff like Canada thistle and quackgrass. I think the quackgrass at least is allelopathic and the corn would likely never recover. The squash, though... I'm probably putting a couple hundred or more winter squash in the ground, and I'm hoping most of them die. I may not do any weeding after all, depending on how much time and energy I've got. If it looks like some are going to produce in spite of the weed pressure and neglect, I may just leave it at that.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a very interesting concept I admit but there seems to be some significant drawbacks. For example the article says "The corn is striking. Most corn varieties grow to about 12 feet... But the nitrogen-fixing varieties stand over 16 feet tall ... ." My corn is being selected to not exceed 10 feet with only five to eight being preferable, again to help resist lodging. Also I think it was a different article I found that said it doesn't start producing the mucilage for three to six months, goodness how long season is this corn? I want my corn to be matured if not completely dried down in not much more than 100 days. And the mucilage, that "drips" off those aerial roots, is I suspect, mostly water and water dripping out of a corn stalk might go a long way on negating any benefit from the free nitrogen.

OK now that I have poo pooed the whole notion of nitrogen fixing corn at least for my purposes I still can't shake the feeling that maybe I should not dismiss it out right. If I ever get the opportunity to put some of those seeds in my dirt I will probably do so but I don't think I would cross it to mine without significant first hand observation.  
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 361
Location: Oregon 8b
89
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
All great points. I think the fact that the varieties in question are tropical has something to do with their ultimate height and time to maturity. It might ultimately not be possible to get the nitrogen fixing trait into a shorter, faster maturing, temperate variety, and it would almost certainly be an ordeal if it was. Would probably have to grow it in a greenhouse and then hand pollinate/save pollen to do the crosses. Might be more hassle than it's worth, but it's the kind of thing I'd want to play around with a bit before deciding it's not worth my time. Also seems likely that the bacteria that the corn associates with might not exist outside of the tropics, and that could be the bigger reason that that trait hasn't been seen outside of the tropics as opposed to temperate corn just not having that trait.

Most root exudates are primarily sugar/starch with some protein and fat. No idea what the composition is for the corn. Given its tropical nature, that corn is likely used to having an excess of water. Perhaps it would be ill-adapted to drought conditions, but I suspect that it either wouldn't produce the mucus if it experienced any level of drought, or else the bacterial association would accelerate growth and thus allow it to put on more root growth even if just indirectly because it's photosynthesizing more.

Who knows. Probably a waste of time. I mostly find it philosophically interesting to know that there is corn that's capable of fixing nitrogen. It makes me wonder if more plants fixed nitrogen before we started tilling and damaging the associations they once had with the microbiology in the soil. At this point in our history, there's probably no way to tell.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 225
Location: SE Indiana
132
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm a little shocked but I have two corn plants form those 90 seeds I planted back in the 85 degree summer of mid March. They are currently sticking up in the two inches of wet snow of late April. Actually the snow has about melted but as evening falls it is turning colder and the sky is clear, the plants look fine right now but I think I'll go out and put some bottles of warm water beside each and cover with some old blankets. Wouldn't want to lose them now to a freeze.
Hummm, I wonder if any more will come up when it warms back up or if the rest have rotted.
 
Can you hear that? That's my theme music. I don't know where it comes from. Check under this tiny ad:
Greenhouse of the Future ebook - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/greenhouse
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic