Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Other reasons for growing corn....

The other day I posted a little diatribe about growing corn for self sufficiency, using the example of the Russian wheat export ban and general shortage to make my point. I was in a hurry so I didn't have a lot of time to expound on the other virtues of corn over the "old world" grains.

Corn is an incredibly diverse species. There is something for almost everyone within the corn genome. Wax corn, Flour Corn, Flint Corn, Dent Corn, Parch Corn, Pop Corn, Sweet Corn, Early Season, Mid Season, Late Season, Drought Tolerance, Cold Tolerance, adaptations to lowlands, midlands, highlands, tropical locales and more.

With the exception of far northern areas of the globe corn can be grown just about anywhere. There are corns that will grow and mature a food/feed crop in only 55 days (Bear Island) and those which will grow in the low or high dessert with annual rainfall that would be the death of most other crops. Some of the South Western germplasm can even be planted up to ninteen inches deep taking advantage of the bedrock water drainage from summer melting of snowpack on mountainsides a great distance away.

Corn is the only true grain that is exceptionally easy to harvest and doesn't stand near as much of a chance of a complete loss (winds/shattring, birds) as so many of the psuedo grains and other easy to harvest grains like Quinoa, Amaranth, Sunflowers, Sorghum and Millet. Any one who can walk a corn field and pull a cob down can harvest as many acres as he/she is willing to work with and capable of finding fertile land for. Seed selection and nutrition criteria is encoded visually for us in the cob itself, given uniform fertility and growth conditions it is easy to look at plants and cobs and make determinations about what best represents what we may like in the crop. The very kernels show us their nutritional value in color (amino acids) texture, and sometimes even in oil content.

Draft animals and tractors are not needed to raise corn (but they do help) and specialized cleaning equipment is not necessary either. In terms of quantity of grain and often quality even the worst strains of corn tend to outyeild and outperform even the best of the old world grains. Corn is grain on a handle, no threshing required.

Many corns even give us the ability to store them for long periods of time in simple "cribs" or roped together by the husk or using commonly availabe cordage to hang them in out of the way places and far away from the mice. They provide an excellen source of protein which doesn't corrupt unless exposed to water and our ground and not used in a timely fashion.

Corn is also incredibly easy to cross and make selections from, giving rise to many new types with unique characteristics and adaptations, it is easy to personalize and has been the inroads to helping develop new plant breeders. The breeders develop the corn and the corn gives us the Gnosis to delve deeper into the breeding of other crops.

It's genome is shown to us in it's most fundamental raw state via the grain itself. Multi color corns always give me the impression of a genetic chart and in some ways it can be said that I have used such "implied" information to move my own projects forward in a way that couldn't be done with any other fruit or vegetable.

Of course this isn't to say there aren't negatives. Space is the big one, the next limiting factor is soil fertility as corn in general is a heavy feeder, however strides have been made in recent years in selecting corn that performs near optimally in poor soils, utilizing larger root systems and nitrogen efficiency and one can always fall back on that incredibly advanced yet wonderfully primitive "three sisters" concept. Of course there are animal and insect pests, but one would be sure to find those in near every crop worthy of human consumption.

Corn is a uniquely American grain, it represents our new world heritage in a way those old world grains can only immitate.

If ever there were a time to experiment with this crop the time is now.

Don't be afraid to breed something new either. Too often people forget, even if you are only saving garden seeds you are still subconciously (or conciously) making selections. Evolution never stands still and no crop is ever "maintained" for long in it's current condition. Even clonal crops undergo ocassional somatic mutation giving rise to many new kinds on a continual basis.