Corn harvest, part 2

Larry G. Field
Thursday, October 3, 2019
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Corn is an enjoyable crop and efforts have been made to extend its productive time period, with minimal success at 46 Degrees. Wikipedia provides an understandable discussion of Growing Degree Days (GDD) and Corn Heat Units (CHU). The concept is simple and applies hugely to corn in our area. Basically each plant needs temperatures higher than a “base temperature” to grow. At temps below the “base” the given plant does not grow, remains dormant. This topic is more technical than I like to get into other than a brief discussion to help you understand the next topic, extending the production duration. CHU must be above the base temp of 50 F for corn to grow. Add the low and high temps for the day and divide by two. If your answer is more than 50, corn will grow for the amount of time (duration) that the temp is above the “base” of 50. If it is barely more than 50F, and for a brief time, the corn will grow minimally. During July, when the nighttime temp is over 50F and your division yields a number of 75 your corn will grow rapidly and grow for 24 hours of the day.

Many gardeners, including myself, have tried to extend the productive season for corn. Most use one of two logics or combine them. One is to choose your favorite variety of corn and plant multiple plantings spaced in time, perhaps 5-10 elapsed days between plantings. Another practice is to select multiple corns with varying maturation times, perhaps 65-90 days to maturity. Neither work well because of GDD/CHU. I have tried corns with, let us say, 65, 75, 80 & 90 days to maturities (dtm). I have planted the 65 day first, waited 7 days and planted the 75, and so on to the 90. The 65 dtm should have ripened 46 days (25 dtm + 21 days staggered planting) before the 90; but all ripened at about the same time.

The problem is that each planting germinates, but with our cool spring, at temps below the base temp., does not grow. Eventually all have germinated but none have grown. Then come temps exceeding the base temp and all grow equally and eventually mature almost equally.

Most readers know the Horning family of Laurel. Ed (Rapid Tire) and his father before him are/were the premier gardeners of Thiel Road. Ed produces magnificent corn and the generations of Hornings have all eaten corn at its earliest yellow stage. A few days ago while Ed and I stood by his corn crop discussing gardening techniques he confided in me that he was going to study

the seed catalogs to try some plants that might offer more of a challenge. He had become bored with the normal “simple” plants. (author’s note: such as the peaches, pears, artichokes and other “simple” things he grows) I bet he will still grow corn.

See next week’s edition of the Outlook for part 3.


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