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cherishedtiger
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Missing corn?

So last night I ate my very first ear of home grown corn... only problem was that when I pulled back the husks I noticed that I was missing lots of kernels on the cobs! Some were only half full of kernels. What causes this and how do I avoid it next season?

What did turn out was fairly ok, my husband loved it so I guess that's all that matters. But what kernels there were turned out huge! A little tough, but maybe I over cooked them.

I have some pictures I just have to upload them if anyone wants to see what I am talking about.

Thanks for your help... again!
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DoubleDogFarm
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I do I do. :) Pictures.


Anywho, sounds like pollination to me. Each silk hair leads to a kernel. Wind pollination is not as reliable in small plots. Did you grow your corn in a block of four rows?

Eric
Last edited by DoubleDogFarm on Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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soil
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pollination for sure, plant more corn closer together next time.
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jal_ut
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The missing kernels are a sign of poor pollination. The Toughness is because you should have picked it a few days earlier.

I recommend planting 3 rows about ten feet long or longer and space the rows 30 inches apart and put a plant every 8 to 12 inches in the rows.
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rainbowgardener
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but we haven't asked ctiger if she is a farmer like you or just a backyard gardener. Jal your spacing for a ten foot row would be 6' wide (counting in only 1' for the width of the three rows) by ten feet long. At 12" spacing that's 10 plants in a ten foot row, 30 plants in the 6 x10' bed. When you have acres and machinery that's fine.

For us backyard gardeners, we can get a 6 x10 plot to produce a lot more than that. But it will pollinate better ( when you don't have lots of plants ), if it is planted in blocks not stretched out rows. 3 4x4 blocks works better than 3 10 foot rows, and in those blocks you can plant a lot closer, assuming of course that your soil is very rich.
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I have to agree with RBG. Jal, your method works great if you have the space, but to a suburban gardener who has to make use of every sq. in. of dirt, it's a little impractical.

Now, equidistant planting would make a more efficient use of space and also help with the pollination-aspect as well. Also, you cold even go the route of hand-pollinating the corn.
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cherishedtiger
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AH-HA! Ok, well yeah right now I have a basically 3x3, area dedicated to my corn. Yup small time suburban gardener. I live in a tiny duplex right in the middle of the city so I don't have much to work with. I planted them pretty close, but far enough apart per the seed packet instructions.

My husband is building me a few new raised beds for next season and we are devoting one solely to corn to give us more area and thus more corn.

Well at least I know why I was missing so many kernels, that mystery is out of the way! I still haven't uploaded those pictures... I will.
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rootsy
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In a small plot you can hand pollinate each ear once silk emerges... just break off a couple of tassels and hold them over the silk and tap against your finger...

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jal_ut
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Corn is a large plant. Its roots will go out 4 feet in all directions. It will get 6 feet or more tall. Its leaves are 30 inches long. Just one plant will easily cover a 3x3 bed. Your yield from one plant will be two ears of corn. About hallf a pound cut off the cob. Then you are probably going to hand pollinate it, or you will have unfilled ears. Ok, so you crowd it up and plant six plants on your 3x3, now the corn feels crowded so it will only make one ear of corn per plant, or none. You still only get 4 or 5 ears from your planting, and it will be smaller ears. I can't help it, its just the way corn is. If you want two nice ears per plant, you need to give it the required space, and you need to give it a large enough planting to pollinate.

What I am telling you is that growing corn on small space is not worth your time. You would do better planting carrots, or bush beans.

I know, that is not what you wanted to hear. You decide.

What I suggested would only take a plot 10 feet square. 3 ten foot rows spaced 30 inches. Can you spare that much room for corn?
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cherishedtiger
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Yeah I am going to build a nice big bed just for corn (all my beds a raised because we have pretty crummy soil here)

And I think I will take into consideration the hand pollination. Doing that already with my squash so whats one more plant!

Thanks for all the advice, I really need all the help I can get! And Jal - sure it may not be what I want to hear, but I gotta hear it from someone right?!
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rootsy
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Before the advent of modern farm machinery such as the tractor, corn was planted in hills. At the time rows were 42+ inches apart as were hills in a row. This allowed N-S & E-W cultivation using horses. Also commonly known as check row planting as it looked like a checker board.

The plants in close proximity @ the hill would pollinate each other and having no near neighbors, 3 or 4 plants could mature as long as there was enough moisture and nutrients for them all to do so.

It is an option to try in limited space... Dedicating a row X feet long, dropping 3 or so seeds in a hole and cover it up... Move on down the line 3 or so feet.. do it again. Intersperse with this some peas... The legumes will add nitrogen for the corn and will climb the stalks...

This was a typical early 20th century planting method... A lot of early planters came with or had the option for a dual hopper... one side for corn, one for peas, all planted in a single row. The peas would also aid in weed suppression.

You don't want to over crowd sweet corn too much... if you plant picket fence style in a row you want to give them some room both in the row as well as row width... If you twin row I wouldn't plant rows closer together than 18 inches... Still maintain the 8 - 10 between each stalk in a row though... Probably going to have to throw the nitrogen at it, above and beyond, what a bit of compost is going to provide...

If those plants are greener than the grass in June you don't have nearly enough nitrogen... Corn and sweet corn hybrids and genetics of today are far superior to what our previous generations had to grow...

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cherishedtiger
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Wow... so there is a lot more to growing corn than I originally considered... oh well, it was still yummy and now I know for next year!

I promised, so here are some pics of what my corn did look like, even wanted to throw in a pic of everything I picked the other day!

[img]https://i86.photobucket.com/albums/k82/cherishedtiger/Picture022.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i86.photobucket.com/albums/k82/cherishedtiger/Picture023.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i86.photobucket.com/albums/k82/cherishedtiger/Picture017.jpg[/img]
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rainbowgardener
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Very odd. Just a couple weeks ago I was at a conference in Indiana. Came back via back roads on the motorcycle. We drove through miles and miles of monoculture corn fields, done by agribusiness, some times broken up for awhile with some soybean fields.

The corn stalks were planted like 2-4 INCHES apart in every direction.

I am not advocating this, because I know what it means... those fields are loaded with synthetic fertilizer and it must be Round-up ready genetically modified corn. Obviously there's no way you can hoe or anything when the corn is planted that tight, so they must use the Round-up ready corn and then just spray the fields, probably from an airplane.

But it is an indication that you can grow very large corn plants on very tight spacing on a massive scale.
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Alan in Vermont
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rainbowgardener wrote:The corn stalks were planted like 2-4 INCHES apart in every direction.
I would like to see that. You didn't, by any chance, get pictures?

If it was planted that close I would love to see the equipment that planted, and will harvest, that crop.

Last I knew, I think I remember planters and corn heads were being made to work 24" rows. They might be down to 18" now, I think I'll make a point of browsing the catalogs at the dealers and ask some farming friends.

By the way, how do know those fields were done by that creeping evil "agribusiness""? Did they have signs out or do you just assume trhat no large acreage is farmed by private owners?

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rainbowgardener
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Yes, it was posted with signs.

and nope sorry, I didn't have camera with me that trip. But there were miles and miles of it, so I'm thinking it can't be that uncommon.

It's only an hour or so away from me, maybe we can go back sometime before harvest and I can get pictures of the corn and the signs.
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birkie2
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missing corn

Another reason for poor pollination not mentioned is that insects can eat the silks. When field corn used to grow near my garden, I had cucumber beetles (adult corn worms) that fed on the silks. This year has proved to be a bumper year for earwigs and they have done the same thing.

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jal_ut
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Sounds like a field of Milo.

Sweet sorghum (milo) stalks are used for producing bio-fuel by squeezing the juice and then fermenting into ethanol.

If it is corn it is most lilely being grown for ethanol production and I will bet there is not an ear on it. Corn that is too close won't make ears.
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