Open Pollinated Corn

Open pollinated corn is corn that you can save seed from each year. It will breed true, unlike saving seed from a hybrid. The open pollinated seed will be a duplicate of its parents. If the farmer selects seed from the best plants, he can, over time, even improve the corn. It will adapt to the soil and climate where it is being grown. I select the largest ears, from plants that are standing up at the time of picking. I begin husking/picking my corn when several random ears, picked from different areas of the field, float in water. The floating means the ear corn and cob is dry enough to keep in a slatted crib without heating up and spoiling.
sunflower patch
Ralph brings home a load of ear corn from the field with his suffolk mares.
Lakeview Amee (with the noseguard) and Lakeview Abby.

Being able to save seed each year is very cost- effective. Selecting seed makes it a personal high point when you see the corn improving as you grow it each year. In actuality, you buy the seed once, then you can grow it for a lifetime. I grow it for our animal feed corn. It can be used for silage and works out very well for food plots for deer.

This is a very inexpensive seed option, especially over time.

The whole plant is enjoyed by livestock and wildlife. It is very palatable. I think it must be sweeter than commercial hybrids, because the animals will eat the fodder and corn stalks down almost to the ground. This type of corn also makes excellent silage. It grows very tall on stalks, easily reaching 9 feet tall, or more! The corn itself is high in protein, making it a good option for all types of livestock.

I have planted open pollinated corn in the past. I used a variety known as “Wapsie Valley.” It did pretty well for me, but once in a while, it would lodge or fall over. It made good feed, and I would still recommend that variety. It is a short-day corn, 85 days to maturity.

I bought the seed from a company called Green Haven from Avoca, N.Y. (I will include contact information at the end of this article.) You can save your own seed or you can buy from them every year, the choice is yours. I like the challenge of saving my own seed, but there is peace of mind knowing that if I mess up, or someone feeds my saved seed to the hogs, I can buy more from Green Haven.

This year, 2020, I planted a variety from Green Haven called “Dublin.” As I was thumbing through their advertising circular, it caught my eye. The ad said, “If you like ‘Wapsie Valley,’ you might like to try ‘Dublin’.” Most things about it were the same, but they said the ears were a bit bigger – 9 inches compared to the 8-inch Wapsie Valley. Dublin was an 86-day corn, so still considered a short-day corn. What the heck, I thought, I’m going to try it.

We had a wet spring, but I still managed to get my corn planted on May 27. I plant with a two-  row, John Deer plateless planter, in 34-inch rows. The wide rows make it  easier  to  cultivate  with my horses. My population is about 22,000 to 24,000 seeds per acre. The plants vary from 6 to 8 inches apart in the row, I would say. The seedbed was plowed down sod from a declining hayfield.     I spread a liberal amount of compost on before plowing. At planting time, I used 250 pounds, to the acre, of 19-19-19 fertilizer, in a band next to the corn seed. The planter does that automatically.

dublin corn variety
Some stalks of hte Dublin corn variety grew over 14 feet tall, setting ears at shoulder height or higher.

Our growing season was perfect for growing corn this year. We did get a little dry late in the season, but  the  corn  excelled  in  spite of the dryness. I cultivated only once due to the pressure of other farm jobs. I sprayed for weeds with a product called 2-4-D, at a rate of one pint per acre. I had a little weed pressure, but not enough to interfere with the growing corn or my hand-picking harvest.  I planted two acres.

A bushel of ear corn takes up 2.5 cubic feet and weighs about 70 pounds at 15% moisture. According to my crib dimensions, I harvested ear corn at a 90 to 100 bushels to the acre rate. The wild raccoons were my biggest problem. They loved the stuff. They pulled enough down to shred and eat, that it actually hurt my harvest numbers. After I started picking, a few deer found my field and helped themselves to a few ears, too. The raccoons, however, were the biggest problem.

The corn was fun to pick. The ears were very large, many of them over a foot long. They were mostly yellow, but plenty of red, orange and speckled ears were in the mix, to keep it interesting. The stalks grew very tall, some well over 14 feet. I often had to pick ears at shoulder height or even above my head. Most ears had 12 rows of kernels, but there were several with 14 rows. Plenty of these ears were “Whoppers” according to my grandson!

I would venture to guess that if the raccoons hadn’t been so thick, my harvest would have run closer to 115 to 120 bushels per acre. That is the best harvest I have ever had on this farm. I use mostly compost for fertility. My rows are wide, and my population is light, by the big farm standards. I am very happy with my results because, at the end of the day, I have enough, and isn’t that what we should strive for anyway?

I have 5 pigs, weighing 120 pounds each, out in the corn field at the time of this writing. They are cleaning up  after the raccoons and any ears that   I might have missed. They didn’t touch their feed for 10 days. They were full from gleaning the field, munching grass and weeds and rooting to their hearts content. The sheep and cattle will spend the winter in the field. They can eat the fodder, leaves and any grass the pigs leave them. I will supplement their feed, of course, but they will make good use of the spent corn plants.

nature trail
Open pollinated corn seed ready to save for next year's planting.
I plant corn to renovate old fields, break up the nematode cycles and feed my stock. Utilizing the entire plant after picking the ears makes economic sense. It is a bit innovative, but it is not a new practice. It is just another “old way” that has great value even today. Saving seed, too, is not a new idea. I am very pleased with my efforts this year. I applaud the weather, my planter and great seed. I am excited to see just how well this corn may do in future years as I select for the traits I want.

In small plots, corn can be planted by hand. A push seeder will work or even an old stab type planter. I am a bit spoiled with my retrofitted plateless planter, but it has been the answer to a prayer.
I urge my readers to try open pollinated corn. Choose a variety suited for your area. Reid’s Yellow Dent, Bloody Butcher or Country Gentlemen may do well for you. Call or contact the folks at Green Haven and consider the types they offer (20 Varieties).

Ralph purchased his seed from:
Green Haven
8225 Wessels Hill Road Avoca, NY 14809
Phone: 607-566-9253
www.openpollenated.com

Author

Ralph Ricefarms in Northwest Ohio To see more of his writings, visit his blog at: http://ricelandmeadows.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the December20/January21 issue of Rural Heritage magazine.

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