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Anyone grow maize with seed balls?  RSS feed

 
Robert Woden
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Hi, I'd like know if anyone has tried growing corn fukuoka style (direct seed - non-cultivation seed balls). Successes? Failures? Thoughts? I am interested in growing a modified three sisters polyculture using separate planting times for each sister. Thanks for any input!
 
Bryan Jasons
Posts: 62
Location: Maine
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I haven't done any seedballs with corn but I like the idea of never tilling, and I think that can be done with corn. I think you can keep the ground covered with mulch easily with corn too.

I planted truckers favorite white dent corn in straw mulch this year. It grew through right the mulch easily (which was just enough straw to cover the soil completely). It was a large seeded dent corn, so something with smaller kernels like a early type of flour/flint corn might not work. haven't tried those other kinds yet.

Seed balls seem unnecessary because corn is usually planted deep enough so that birds can't eat them off the ground. Also spacing is an issue with corn, so the fun of throwing the seed balls probably won't apply here. Corn in northern areas, like where I am, might not germinate in the seedballs without rain, and that might delay emergence. Early emergence seems important in the north to get it to mature grain.

Stalk thickness correlates with ear size by the way, so regardless of variety chosen, you can tell the proper spacing from that. Off topic but cool anyway!

I planted a few thousand corn plants in late May to make sure they would hit their stride in the heat of July, but they all got eaten by crows! They probably wouldn't have been protected by seedballs because the crows ripped the small seedlings out of the ground and ate the still attached kernels. I used mulch the second time and lost only a few plants to the crows, so that's what I plan to do next year.

If corn is spaced apart in rows you can add many feet of mulch in between. Squash makes it hard to mulch in between the rows. Pole beans are ok though.

Good luck! Or, if you don't believe in luck; good whatever!
 
Erica Worhatch
Posts: 28
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Hi Robert, let me know how our project goes. I'll be trying some corn & beans this spring & making different seed ball compositions to try to control germination. Not going to use squash as I'll be doing this on a cut/mowed bed of vetch.

 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
12
duck forest garden trees woodworking
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Corn seed balls are something I've given some thought to and would like to try sometime. Like what was mentioned above because of the required planting depth and spacing I don't know if it will work or be worth the effort. My day job is conventional corn and soybean farming and everyone around here says corn needs to be planted at least an inch and a half deep for it to "grow right" so again the depth could be the main concern.

I've thought about making really big seed balls for corn, like baseball sized, maybe that would work but it might require some sort of wicking material in order for a moderate rain to soak all the way through it. If I ever get around to trying this I'll be sure to write about it however I've considered giving up on growing corn because around here it almost always seems to cross pollinate with the GMO field corn that's EVERYWHERE!
 
Erica Worhatch
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Yeah, at first I wasn't interested in corn at all for all the gmo hassels. you totally have my sympathy....and concern. imagine there's atrazine contamination too? any chance you can find a few corn types with different enough pollination times?
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
12
duck forest garden trees woodworking
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imagine there's atrazine contamination too?


I believe atrazine is sprayed mostly in the early spring before most other plants are leafed-out however it does get into the water. Unfortunately there are probably dozens of other chemicals drifting around at various times of the growing season. And who knows which ones are the most harmful and how they're affecting the ecology of the area, including us.

any chance you can find a few corn types with different enough pollination times?


This should be feasible. Sweet corn should be the easiest to time out since it tassels earlier than field corn. Maybe there are other types that would work. I was trying to grow an heirloom red flint corn and was having troubles, Florini I think bought I'm probably butchering the name/ spelling.




 
Erica Worhatch
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I think I got a small pack of that one to try also. It's an experiment, so I'll be trying several varieties. Most are long season flint or dent & long season (shooting to harvest mid Sept. I do want to try a popcorn type too. I'm hoping to compare how the seed balls do along with regular planting. So many experiments, so little time

 
Bryan Jasons
Posts: 62
Location: Maine
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Short season and/or early maturing Corn varieties:

DTM = days to maturity, number of days is approximate and isn't as important as degree days/heat which I don't know for most of these. They should all be relatively early compared to the typical dent varieties :

Painted mountain flour, 85 DTM. Mandan bride flour, 5-6ft., 85-90 DTM. Tuscarora white (DTM 90ish?). Early riser dent/flint, Vermont bred, 80 DTM. Wachichu flint - longer season flint type at 100-105 DTM, but possibly different enough to know if it crosses with yellow dent types. Silver king dent 90-105 DTM, white kernels might contrast yellow if yellow dent is the predominate type in area. Wapsie valley dent, 85 DTM. Minnesota 13 dent, 87 DTM (Another strain with the same name is later). Abenaki flint, 80-90 DTM. Roy calais flint, 90 DTM. Albert clipper dent/flint?, 65 DTM. Gaspe flint, 55-65 DTM. Tohono O'odham, 65 DTM. Bear island chippewa, 65 DTM.

I don't know if it's ok to post links to sellers, but a quick google search of the varieties should get results. Message me if you want more seed sources I guess?
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
12
duck forest garden trees woodworking
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Bryan,

Early maturing varieties might help but it's not a sure-fire way to avoid pollen contamination. Most of the varieties you listed are only slightly earlier than the typical 95-100 day corn (maybe other areas of the country use longer season corn) but conventional ag usually plants corn as early as possible, mid april here in zone 4 if the weather allows. Most people I know who grow organically will plant a month or more later than this, one reason for this is to ensure quick germination to prevent grub damage and fungal problems with the seed. So even with earlier varieties they could be tasseling with the neighbor's GMO corn.

It sucks, I know. The 55-65 RM's might have a chance if they're planted early enough. Maybe the seed ball approach would allow earlier planting.
 
Bryan Jasons
Posts: 62
Location: Maine
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S haze,

Wow, I didn't know people planted corn so early in zone 4! Is it because of treated seed to prevent fungal problems and/or the cheapness of seed? You could have it frost and plant again I'm assuming? Luckily, where I live there aren't many corn growers at all. Maybe some sweet corn 5-10 miles away.. But it's not an agricultural area. I got Wapsie valley seeds and I'm thinking of trying some extra early (May 1st?) to see what happens this year.

I think the very early types (55-65 days) might be small enough to plant very densely, that might make it easier to use seedballs, since spacing would be less of an issue?

As an alternative to Corn, aren't there some dwarf milo varieties available where you are? Maybe quinoa is worth a try?
 
S Haze
Posts: 229
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
12
duck forest garden trees woodworking
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Wow, I didn't know people planted corn so early in zone 4! Is it because of treated seed to prevent fungal problems and/or the cheapness of seed? You could have it frost and plant again I'm assuming?


It's not because the seed is cheap, most is around 350-400 per bag (about one bushel)! Another good reason for farmers to avoid GMO if they can make it work. The treatment allows early planting and a hard frost will only kill off the top of the plant. The growing point stays below the soil surface for some time. Fields of planted corn that get covered for a day or two by a late snow are getting to be common many years.

I don't try to defend conventional ag but I do try to tell it the way it is or at least to the best of my knowledge, so that when we try to convince farmers to do something else we know what we're up against. Permaculture can definitely out-perform on many (probably all) levels, unfortunately we don't have monsanto's multi-billion $ budget to launch it into the mainstream.
 
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