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In this article, we bring you everything you need to know about corn growing, planting, maintenance, harvesting, diseases and more. We will make you a real professional corn grower in no time.
Growing corn works best in warm areas with much sunlight, it needs water (natural or irrigation), deep, fertile and structural soil. To find out everything you need about it, continue reading our article.
Generally about corn
The basic economic importance of corn arises from the characteristics of the plant itself, the variety of uses and the extent of production. Almost all parts of a corn plant can be processed, which is why corn is of particular economic importance.
Today, more than 500 different industrial corn products are manufactured (food and medicine, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, various beverages, textile, and chemical products).
Corn grain as a basic raw material in the preparation of concentrated animal feed is of great importance because it contains 70-75% carbohydrates, 10% protein, about 5% oil, 15% minerals, and 2.5% cellulose.
How long does it take for corn to grow?
Corn is a one-year-old spring growing plant, and its vegetation length from sprouting to full maturity depends on the trait of the variety, that is, the hybrid, on the one hand, and the growing conditions, on the other. According to the length of vegetation, all corn hybrids can be classified into early, middle early and late vegetation. Very early hybrids mean hybrids with a vegetation time of 90-110 days and medium-early hybrids with vegetation of 120-135 days and a late 135-145 days.
Types of corn
There are many types of corn, but these are the most famous:
- Sweet corn – an early species that has a pronounced characteristic of producing multiple pistons per plant. The grains have a shriveled surface and, in addition to the different forms of starch, also contain dextrins that give them a sweet taste.
- Dent corn – ripened grains of this corn has a single recess in the crown and are similar in appearance to the horse’s teeth. The grains are in most cases white or yellow and may be reddish in color. Mostly one piston appears on one plant, and there are 16 to 20 rows of grain on it.
- Flint corn – it has extremely hard grains, which can be white, red, purple or yellow. It is divided into pearly, in which the grain is very shiny and round, and like rice, which has a pointed grain. This is the corn that popcorns are made of.
- Eight-row flint corn – it has round-oval, hard and shiny grains. The grains can be white, red, yellow, orange or purple. The pistons are of different lengths and can be conical or cylindrical in shape. Two or more pistons are formed on one stem. Since there are usually eight rows of grain on each of them, these corns are also called octal.
- Zea mays – it is used for the production of alcohol, and the size and shape of pistons and grains are varied in this type.
- Waxy corn – the grain of this corn in structure and shape is reminiscent of the flint corn, but they are not shiny. The outer part of the grain is reminiscent of wax.
Cross-breeding different varieties yields offspring that have more superior properties than parents. Most often, these are higher growth, higher fertility, higher resistance and better adaptation to certain growing conditions. Modern corn production changes the varieties of hybrids very quickly so that individual hybrids are in wide production for 5-6 years. All our hybrid institutes from time to time publish catalogs describing their hybrids.
Agroecological conditions for growing corn
The minimum temperature for germination of corn seeds is 46 °F. At this temperature, germination is very slow, so sowing begins when the soil in the sowing (plowed) layer is heated to more than 50 °F. Corn can grow if the soil temperature is above 50 °F and the air is above 55 °F. If the temperature drops below 50 °F, the corn stops growing. Most often it occurs in the rainy and cold spring after corn sprouting when the lighting is reduced.
Temperatures below 30 °F regularly cause plants to decay. Better feeding with potassium and phosphorus increases the resistance of corn to low temperatures. Sometimes temperatures up to 27 °F do not damage the vegetative tip but only the leaf area, so such plants can recover. However, if such low temperatures persist, the plants fail. Low temperatures, especially frosts in the fall can slow maturation, interrupt vegetation or even damage grain germination, which is very dangerous in the production of seed corn.
Corn is quite resistant to high temperatures. However, temperatures exceeding 95 °F at the time of flowering damage the pollen grains, so they cannot germinate, which reduces fertilization and crop as well. The root system develops most intensively at a soil temperature of about 73 to 77 °F and above-ground organs of 68 to 82 °F, depending on the stages of corn development.
Better use of light is solved by selecting hybrids with more upright leaves, thus lessening the lower leaves.
In order for corn seeds to start germinating, about 45% of the water should be absorbed. With a favorable temperature, the seed will quickly germinate and sprout at soil moisture of about 70 to 80% of maximum water capacity. Water demand increases during times of intense vegetative growth and is greatest just before detasseling and silking during fertilization and at the start of grain irrigation.
If there is a drought in this period and there is a possibility of corn irrigation, irrigation should be carried out. Extremely dry soil usually occurs on light sandy soils. When soil moisture decreases below 10% of maximum water capacity, corn ceases to grow. Corn consumes water very economically, which does not mean that it should not be irrigated in the event of drought in flowering, fertilization and watering grain. Namely, during this period corn is very sensitive to drought.
Good pre-crops for corns are annual and perennial legumes, potatoes, sugar beets, sunflower, rapeseed, and even cereals. Corn can be sown in stubble sowing, after early pre-crops ( rapeseed, peas, barley).
Corn as a preculture to other crops can be good but also bad if harvested late, especially in the autumn with a lot of rain. Then the soil is left hard and poorly cultivated or even untreated until spring. Corn leaves a large vegetative mass (stem, leaf, root system) that makes it difficult to cultivate and reduces the quality of the soil.
It is well tolerated with all other crops and other cultures and can, therefore, be exchanged on the same parcel for 2 to 3 consecutive years, and some places for much longer periods of time.
As a rule, basic tillage must be carried out in the summer and in exceptional spring conditions. By cultivating the soil to a certain depth, breaking the impermeable layer, loosening it and mixing it, the soil appears warmer and warmer, which necessitates the normal growth and functioning of the root system. With regard to the depth of treatment, it appears that the maximum mass of the root system is up to 12 inches deep, which would indicate that the depth of basic treatment is also carried out up to 12 inches. Any deep soil tillage can only be done at a time when the lower layers of the soil are sufficiently dry, ie in summer and early autumn, while normal plowing can be done in summer-autumn and exceptionally in spring.
If corn is grown after crops that leave higher harvest residues (straw, corn), 100-150 kg of urea/ha must be fertilized before plowing these residues to provide enough nitrogen for microorganisms to degrade organic residues. If fertilizers are added to basic tillage, soil preparation for sowing, in the beginning, and fertilization, the plant will have the nutrients it needs at all times.
Initial fertilization – performed in conjunction with sowing so that fertilizer feeders place the fertilizer 2 – 3 inches away from the seed and about 1 – 2 inches below the seed. These nutrients are immediately adjacent to the newly developed root and are immediately used by the plant for faster growth. NPK fertilizers with a pronounced phosphorus component are used. Fertilizers containing insecticide against soil pests are often used in the initial fertilization. The known combination is NPK 13:10:12 combined with 1% volaton. Starting fertilization is often avoided as it impedes and slows sowing.
Additional fertilization – is carried out in the case when in the previous fertilizers it was not possible to put the planned quantities of fertilizers into the soil and if characteristic symptoms of nutrient deficiency are observed on the crop. Additional corn fertilization is done in the early stages of development. The first feed in phase 3-5 leaves and the second in-phase 7-9 leaves. Additional fertilization is most commonly performed during the inter-row cultivation of corn crops. The most commonly used fertilizers are nitrogen fertilizers (KAN and UREA) and complex fertilizers, which emphasize the nitrogen component.
Additional fertilization can also be made foliar feeding. Fertilizers given foliar are immediately adopted. Cron tolerates low concentrations and specially prepared fertilizers should be used for this purpose. These are all reasons why foliar feeding is rarely used in corn cultivation and can be recommended for more valuable production (seed corn production).
Hybrids or hybrids recommended by scientific and professional institutions for a given area should be sown (purity min. 99%, germination 93%). After the seed has been procured, on the basis of the information contained in the seed quality declaration, the usable value of the seed is calculated and the sowing rate is determined. (Usable seed value = purity x germination / 100)
It is best if the sowing of corn is carried out in the optimum agrotechnical period. If the rainy or cold weather occurs and the optimal agrotechnical time is reached, the sowing cannot be done. Sowing should start when the temperature of the sowing layer is raised to 50 °F.
Early sowing should have a number of benefits. It ensures earlier germination and sprouting, better use of winter moisture, earlier detasseling, silking, flowering and fertilization, and avoids high heat and dry air in the most sensitive stages of corn development. Corn ripens earlier and more fully, all of which have an effect on increasing the quantity and quality of the crop. Such sowing can also have bad effects, because, in the case of lower temperatures and increased soil moisture, long-term germination and sprouting, defective sprouting, a worse assembly may occur, which is why the sown area must sometimes be plowed.
The corn is sown with seeders (mechanical or pneumatic) at a distance of 28 inches between rows. This distance may be larger, but it is not good to increase it, because corn is sown in high densities of the assembly, so the greater the row spacing for the same assembly, the smaller the plant spacing in the row. This increases the competition of the plants and reduces the optimal use of the vegetation space.
Usually, the earlier hybrids are sown in a denser assemblage because they have a lower and thinner stem, a smaller leaf area, a less developed root system, and thus occupy a smaller vegetation space.
Later hybrids have longer vegetation and higher plant mass, so they are sown at a lower density of the assemblage. When buying seeds, the density of the assembly should be indicated for each hybrid. Corn crop density is one of the most important factors for crop height. The plants do not have enough vegetation space in the dense part of the plant, so poor fertilization, barrenness, lower stem strength, the increased onset of disease, all of which reduce the crop. The depth of sowing depends on the type and condition of the soil, sowing time and seed size.
In soils of higher fertility and with the high fertilization application of nitrogen, the crop density for the same hybrid should be higher than in soils of lower fertility, with poor fertilization and generally at low production levels.
In heavier, wetter and colder soils and in earlier sowing, it is sown at 1.5 – 2 inches deep. In drier, lighter and warmer soils, it is sown deeper (2 – 3 inches). On sandy soils, sowing can be deeper. Larger seeds are sown deeper and finer shallower. If soil pests are present in the soil, then appropriate insecticides are introduced with sowing. Sowing density with a predetermined spacing of sowing rows is governed by the arrangement and spacing of the sown grains in a row.
Flat cultivation with a rotary tiller is necessary for breaking the crust and destroying the weeds in the germination phase. This operation is especially important in wet years on heavy soils. The rotary tiller can be used after sowing, before crops sprout and after corn emerges. If this operation is performed after sowing, and before the corn emerges, care must be taken at what depth the corn germ is located.
In fact, the working organs of this machine enter the soil up to an inch and can be used until the corn germ comes into this layer of soil and without the risk of damage to the germ. Inter-row cultivation of corn crops is a necessary measure of care. This operation prevents the appearance of crust, aerates the surface layer of soil, reduces the loss of water from the soil and destroys weeds. This operation is performed on row cultivators, usually on two occasions: the first cultivation in the 5-6 leaf stage and the second cultivation in the 7-9 leaf stage.
Considering the specific development of the roots of the system, the corn should be left 4 – 6 inches on either side of the row untreated, in order not to damage the root system. In some years, when the effect of herbicide application is absent, manual cultivation of corn crops is also carried out.
Corn has very slow growth at the beginning of vegetation, and this favors weed development. For this reason, it is especially important to protect the corn crop from weeds in the initial stages of development. Preventive weed control begins with pre-sowing treatment. In addition to tillage, weeds can be prevented, for example by adequate crop rotation and cleaning of agricultural machinery that can transmit seeds or vegetative parts of weeds. If weed control has not been avoided, chemical weed control (herbicides) must, unfortunately, be undertaken. Mechanical measures are used to combat weeds by using a plate, sowing device, harrow, cultivator, and after sowing with rotary tillers, row crop cultivators and more.
The corn matures uniformly and is usually not raked so harvesting is done at full maturity. Corn should be harvested as soon as possible, as any delays in harvesting reduce the crop. The losses are caused by damage caused by birds, rodents and wild animals. Stems that lay or break cannot be done with a harvester. Losses also occur during the operation of the harvester, but they should not exceed 2-3%. Corn is harvested at technological maturity, and it occurs at different times, depending on how the corn is used.
Harvesting Corn in the Piston – The whole process is mechanized and performed by the harvesters. Picked pistons are transported and transported into the recycle bins. Harvesting of corn in the piston should start when the humidity of the grain on the piston drops below 30%. To successfully store corn in the basket, care must be taken to store only healthy, clean and mature pistons. Grain moisture should not exceed 26%. If more watered corn has been stored then ventilate the corn to the specified humidity.
Harvesting corn in the grain – For this method of corn harvesting, grain harvesters with a special hedge are used to tear off the corn clips. The resulting raw corn grain can be stored for a long time. This method of harvesting and storing corn is very efficient but also expensive. In harvested grains, if harvested by a combine harvester, there should be a small percentage of damaged grains. Grain moisture of 25% to 28% is most favorable for harvesting for this use in most hybrids. The harvested grain must be dried using warm air in the dryer to bring its water content down to a maximum of 13%, where it can be safely stored in warehouses and silos.
Silage corn harvesting – It is recommended to adjust a cut length of 4 to 10 mm. The shorter incision allows better planting and compaction of plant mass and easier digestibility of ruminants. The portion of corn that is intended to be used in livestock feed is most rationally used as silage. In this way, the production of animal feed per unit area is cheaper. Corn used as silage has almost 50% more nutritional effect than corn in the form of dry grain.
By silaging corn, it seeks to preserve and maintain for a long time the nutrient of fresh mass without significant changes. The silaging process takes 4-6 weeks and after that, the silage is suitable for feeding the livestock.
Due to the purpose of silage in the feeding of different types of livestock, several ways of silaging corn have been developed: silage of the entire corn plant, silage of the minced corn piston and silage of the minced wet corn grain. The easiest and cheapest way to store silage is in free space, as it is expensive to build special facilities. By silaging corn, losses during storage are reduced compared to the storage of corn in the piston and grain. By silaging corn to produce uniform food quality throughout the year.
Corn diseases and pests
Pests that can cause significant damage to corn plantations are Agriotes, Western corn rootworm, and corn borer.
Agriotes attack corn seeds while still germinating, destroying young plants. They are suppressed by adding insecticides to the soil or by planting corn hybrids whose seeds have been treated with insecticide.
Rootworm feeds on the roots of this plant in early spring and later on leaves and grains, which means that it damages the entire plant. It was not until the early 2000s that significant damage caused by this pest was recorded. Rootworm can be prevented by respecting the crop rotation, and chemical protection is used to suppress it.
Corn borer attacks all parts of the plant and decreases the corn’s strength, causing the plants to break. Preventive measures are mainly used for suppression, resistant varieties are used for cultivation and appropriate agro-technical and mechanical measures are applied. As a last resort, biological and chemical agents can be used to control corn borer.
Corn in the kitchen
The way we prepare corn depends on the type and freshness of the fruit. Young and fresh corn clips are best cooked right away, and they are equally delicious when baked on a fire or in the oven. For baking in the oven, the pistons should be peeled first, then the beans are coated with butter, covered with aluminum foil and baked in the oven for ten minutes at 428 °F. Corn can also be grilled, but before that, it needs to be soaked in water for some time so that it does not lose too much water during baking.
The corn grains separated from the piston are a great addition to a variety of dishes, from side dishes to main courses. Mexican cuisine is especially full of recipes where corn is one of the ingredients. In our country, corn grains are sometimes added to stews, salads or served with vegetables.
Corn is also used in the production of flour and corn starch. Flour can be used in the preparation of bread and cakes, and cornstarch is used to thicken the sauce or to prepare a variety of sweets.
History of corn
The corn is native to Central America, and archaeological findings show that it was consumed as early as 4,500 BC. It was bred by the Aztecs and Mayans and later expanded to include North and South America. After the discovery of the New World, it quickly spread to Europe and became part of daily human consumption.
According to some sources, corn arrived in Europe in 1493, while other places state that it did not happen until 1535. After Europe, it spread throughout the Middle East and then the Far East. Today, corn is one of the most important crops grown, not only here but around the world.