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.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Evaluating Waxy Maize Germplasm

This past winter my good friend Castanea at Homegrown Goodness was kind enough to send me some bulk packages of Waxy Maize seed from Lion Seed. Three varieties in total which I posted pictures of on the blog back when. Two of these were hybrids and a third was OP all being white and 90 days to maturity (he also sent a yellow flint which was high oil and ended up in a backcross to Amanda Palmer this season).

I set out to test the germplasm this summer past. Due to cross pollination concerns with the wide range of DTM in my Amanda Palmer and flint corn populations I didn't bother to plant the Waxy corn until late June/Early July. I knew this would have a major effect on it's productivity. As well it was planted on unamended soil which had not been treated with lime in several years.

The corn germinated quickly and seemed to grow well. It had a a bit of a nitrogen deficiency but continued on quite well regardless. By mid-October some of the corn was drying down and ready for harvest. As expected the harvest was a bit nill due to the late planting and fertility factors, none the less, I was rewarded with plenty of good seed for replanting this coming season.

A few observations about the corns growth that I made. It seemed to me the stalks were a bit fragile and pithy but this could be due once again to lack of nitrogen. The cob formation seems quite squat and the way the husk develops and connects to the handle is a bit odd with the husk itself having almost a vegetable quaility to it with a texture like that of the inside of a cabbage at the base of the cob. I did sample some of the corn in the milk stage and the flavor was similar to that of an SU sweet corn. Once I had dried ears in hand I took some of those that I rejected for seed and fed them out in an animal preference test to the pigs as well as the turkeys. 3 to 1 the animals seemed to prefer the waxy maize to Amanda Palmer, likely even they know they are able to process more of the starch than in a dent line.

This coming year I hope to grow a quarter acre and take a better look at the corn in more ideal conditions. One of the other major issues I experienced with the waxy corn was the preference deer and raccons and squirrels also showed for the corn so it's going to have to be planted somewhere a bit closer to the house and human activity that I am accustomed to planting Amanda Palmer for instance. This season I will also add a sample of colored waxy maize I recieved from my good friend Joseph Lofthouse as well.


Ann Mutschler said...

Great post. I have many questions as I attempted to grow a tiny bit of corn last summer with seed from Botanical Interests (before I found out about Baker Creek and you!) A lot of the corn was small and weird, like you described, but some was ok and we had a few meals with it. Mr. Tash left a big bag of lime in the smokehouse, so I'm assuming we'll need to use it...but do I apply to the whole garden area? Just the corn area? How much? Is the lime even good after many years? Anyway, I'm trying to figure out where to put the corn this summer. Probably will be in between the buggy shed and dining shed (old wood shed). Seems like forever until we can plant!
Also, I would love to see a program like you described start up again at Eastern!

Bishops Homegrown said...

Hey Ann. Most of the time corn growing short and shrubby like that is either from a neutritional defficiency or a lack of water, or both. For example, with the Waxy Maize mentioned above I planted extraordinarily late (corn is also photo-period sensitive and planting late effects it similarly) with little to now fertility and no irrigation to see what it really had to offer in an extreme situation. The lime should still be good. I wouldn't however use it unless it is dolomite lime as if it is slacked or hydrated lime it's not organic. You can buy dolomite in 50 lb bags at millers hardware in Salem Indiana for about 5.00. You will likely want to apply lime to the entirity of the garden area but without doing a soil test I couldn't tell you an exact amount to apply. Generally with the soils here in the Ohio valley or with the application of high nitrogen fertilizers on a yearly or bi-yearly basis you will want to apply lime fairly liberally in the spring with your fertilizer/compost yearly.

I too hope that Eastern realizes how important agriculture was and will be again in this region with the economy on perpetual decline. Brenda Hash's son from West Washington (who was at the past market) and who is interested in growing food for the school gives me great hope that both Eastern and Salem will realize just how important such programs are. It is my honest opinion that basic agriculture classes should be a requirement for graduation from high school. You should not walk out those doors without knowing how to garden in soil or pots and without knowing the basics of sustainable agriculture including seed saving, animal husbandry, and orchard work. One can only dream righ?

Ann Mutschler said...

Very good point about the soil test. I think I will get that done. The county can do that right?

I will probably just get new lime, just to be sure!

As for the agriculture curriculum, we have to dream because it does sometimes drive the change.

Bishops Homegrown said...

Yep, the Purdue county extension office should be able to do it for you, though I can't remember if there is a fee associated with it or not.

When I was in highschool we had an excellent agricultural program that I hope to see make a comeback!