poor corn harvest -- some ideas?

Hello,
This afternoon I harvested ornamental corn from my backyard garden. It was pitiful. If all farmers were like me, the world would starve. So I have some questions, thinking about next year.
* How do I improve pollination? I had 4 rows of corn, and about 10-15 plants in each row, about 6 inches apart. That's closer than the seed packet recommended, but comparable to the spacing that the local farmers use.
* I picked the corn now, even though it wasn't ready, because the forecast is for cold weather soon. Would frosty temperatures kill corn? If not, I could have left it to grow longer. The professional corn farmers in this area harvested about three weeks ago.
Thank you,
Ted Shoemaker, certified Gray Thumb
Madison, Wisconsin, US
USDA zone 4/5 AHS heat zone 4/5 Sunset zone 43
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

*** You and me both, I planted 10' x 10' , very close together and it still did not pollinate well... the year before I was told do do dense planting and water an inch of water (min) per week - I planted silver queen and candy corn, ;P some large sweet kernels, but ugly as sin !
I will watch the responses for what to try next year ! So we don't starve to death! Hahaha.....
BG
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[snip]

Six inches is a little tight. Better to sow your seed farther apart, unless you intend to heavily fertilize with N the way farmers do.
With such a small patch, you can help things along next time by gently tapping each tassel early in the morning so that the pollen falls on freshly emerged silk. The air must be completely still around the stalk or you/ll waste your precious pollen.
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On 25 Sep 2006 13:48:48 -0700, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

I try for plants 10-12 inches apart and 36 inch rows. I like even a tad wider rows sometimes (40 inches) so eventual weeding and watering is easier. Usually I plant at least 4 rows maybe 30 feet long.
Corn is a heavier feeder and anything too close together runs the risk of becoming stunted. There aren't too many farmers that plant rows less than ~28 inches. Everything (soil, rain, sun, nitrogen...) has to be perfect for narrow rows to work well.
--
Leon Fisk
Grand Rapids MI/Zone 5b
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*** I am in Zone 6 and we do not get much wind as I am on the protected (from wind) side of a hill, How do the plants pollinate if so far apart?, 10 -12 inches between the plants, they *might* touch leaf tips... Doesn't the pollen need to fall between the leaves and stalk to form the ear of corn ? How many ears per plant do you get , I had 3 - 5 per plant, they were just small and hardly kerneled at all!

My plants reached the target height... does stunted refer to another factor of the plant? More leaved perhaps? Is color of the plant an indicator, it was medium / dark green... Grasping at straws , this is the 2nd year growing corn , last year was worse, the plants were midgets and the ears of corn were not present ! So, I am improving, but the worry over these plants is too much ! haha, I thought corn was one of those grow it an forget about it crops! Sheesh!
Thanks for any help! BG Zone 6 Boise,ID
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The problem you/re having is poor pollenation. The pollen must come in contact with the silk to make kernels.
My suggestion was and still is to gently tap the tassels after the silk emerges when the air is still. The pollen will fall on the silk and you/ll get a nice crop.
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wrote:

I have never seen 5 ears that amounted to anything on any type of corn (actually I've never seen 5 ears on any type of corn). Even the field corn hybrids rarely have more than three. Good field corn with 3 ears would probably be 12 to 14 foot tall and very, very happy with its soil, watering, fertilizer...

To tell you the truth I can't say I have ever given much thought to pollination. I do realize/know about the mechanics to it, but I can't say I have ever seen a significant problem. We do get a decent amount of wind here though.
Last year the sweet corn got 5-6 feet tall and usually two, but sometimes only one ear per stalk. The ears are 6-10 inches long. I actually had 6 rows spaced 40 inches wide and maybe 25 feet long. I didn't grow any this year, but would have only planted 4 rows if I had. Remember too that sweet corn is all about flavor. Flavor will trump all other features. The little bit of field corn I grow always makes the sweet corn look like it is sickly. Most of the ears fill out pretty well though. I do get a few ears that don't. Nothing too significant in my opinion.
I plant some field corn to feed birds and other critters (planted ~100 feet away from the sweet). The seed came from a local farmer that didn't get planted the year before (old seed, probably a "Crows" hybrid). I still had plenty of ears left from last season so I didn't plant any this year. Last year I had 8 rows 40 inch width and they were ~30 feet long. It was a very dry summer and the field corn didn't get any supplemental watering like the sweet did. It grew 8-10 feet tall, mostly two 8-12 inch ears, sometimes one or three ears.
I still think you have your corn spaced too close together. Another thing too, when it gets to be several feet tall, take a hoe and mound up the soil a bit around each stalk. This will help support the stalk and give the top whorl of new roots forming a bit of help reaching the soil. In the good-old-days farmers used to try to make their last pass cultivating corn in a higher gear in hopes of flinging dirt up and around the stalks for a mounding effect. I haven't seen anyone out cultivating corn now for years...
If you have the room try planting some both ways and see which does better in a given year. The weather (hot, cold, rainy, dry) has so much to do with it that only a direct comparison in the same year with the same variety will make for a good diagnosis.
Write me back next year and tell how it came out :)
--
Leon Fisk
Grand Rapids MI/Zone 5b
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