William Thomas Ainsworth.

Practical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers online

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several ears should be uniform in size and shape. The kernels that
have been removed should be carefully compared. Ears should be dis-
carded whose kernels are exceptionally large or small, broad or narrow,
long or short. Kernel uniformity is more important than ear uni-
formity. The planter cannot be made to drop regularly if the kernels
are irregular. Other things being equal, too long kernels indicate
that the corn will be too late in maturing. The shortest kernels ripen
early but do not produce as much corn. Since the general tendency

NOTE: A part of this chapter pertaining to the explanations of the
corn score card was taken in the main from the Eleventh Annual Report
of the Illinois Corn Growers' Association.


is for kernels to become more shallow, deeper kernels should be planted
than is desired in the crop. See illustration.

9. Kernel Shape: This should conform to the variety type. Gen-
erally speaking, kernels should be wedge-shaped and full at the germ
end, except Champion White Pearl, which should be smoothly indented
with rounded top and nearly as wide as deep.

10. Space Between Bows: Furrows between rows and spaces caused
by round corners of kernels, which should be narrow, deep and sufficient
for perfect ventilation. See illustration.

11. Space Between Kernels at Cob: There should be little or no
space in row between kernels at cob. Considerable space in the row
between the kernels indicate immaturity and lack of vigor. Such ears
should not be used for seed. See illustration.

12. Vitality, or Seed Condition: Ears should be ripe, sound, dry
and of strong vitality. Grains of a pinkish color are objectionable,
since they indicate a diseased condition. Three dead ears disqualify
an entire exhibit. This is the most important point in the score card
as well as in selecting corn' for planting.

13. Trueness to Type: Conforming to variety characteristics in
variety classes and to the prevailing type in general classes, type is
determined largely by the shape and uniformity of the kernels. In
fact, if kernels are uniform and of the shape and indentation char-
acteristic of the variety in question, the ear or exhibit may be said
to have good type.

14. Proportion of Shelled Corn to Ear: In determining the pro-
portion of corn to cob, weigh each alternate ear in the exhibit. Shell
and weigh the cobs, and subtract weight of cobs from weight of ears,
which will give weight of corn. Divide the weight of corn by the
total weight of ears to get the percentage of corn. For each per cent
short of standard for the variety, a one-point cut is made.

We have tried to explain as clearly as possible in this chapter, the
factors which enter into the selection of corn for seed and exhibition
purposes. To tell on paper how to select corn is almost impossible.
For this reason we urge all readers of this book to attend the nearest
short course in corn judging if the opportunity presents itself. No
matter how little or how much you know about corn, you will learn
things that will be of practical benefit to you, as a corn grower, by
attending one of these short courses. There are no charges made for
taking these courses. Ralph M. Ainsworth, secretary of the Illinois
Corn Growers' and Stockmen's Convention, held at Urbana, will be
pleased to send the program and schedule to anyone writing to the
address on the title page of this book.


"The Study of Corn." Vernon M. Shoesmith.

"Successful Corn Culture." Prof. P. G. Holden.

"Selecting the Best Ears of Corn." Successful Farming. Oct., 1912.



Corn has improved greatly in type and yielding qualities
in the last twenty years. From a long, slender ear 1 on a
tall, heavy stalk, corn has been bred to a cylindrical ear
with deep grains, showing a percentage of grain to ear of
between eighty-five and ninety.

This improvement in type and yielding qualities has been
due to two things : First, the breeding plot ; secondly, field
selection. Improvements through the breeding plot are ac-
complished largely in a mechanical way, by the use of scales.
Field selection is done by the picker ever keeping before him
the ideal that he is striving to obtain.

To make the greatest progress in corn improvement, it is
necessary to combine breeding plot and field selection.

On the following pages we will give as well as we can
our method of conducting an ' ' ear to the row ' ' breeding plot.


In starting a breeding plot, one hundred of the most
desirable ears are chosen. The ears of course should be well
matured and sound and the type as good as can be obtained,
since a mistake in the first selection may set the breeder back
a year or two. It is better to make a record of the measure-
ments of ears. (Illinois farmers can obtain blank registers
by applying to L. H. Smith, of the University of Illinois.)
If a breeding plot has been conducted before, ears, of course,
should be selected from the highest yielding rows of the pre-
vious year's plot.



After the description of the ears has been recorded, they
are shelled separately and the kernels of each placed in small
paper sacks. These sacks are tagged from one to one hundred
and are then placed in a grain sack and hung away from the
mice until time to plant in the spring. The best time and
place for this work is in the winter before the kitchen fire.

In order to prevent foreign pollenization the breeding plot
should be situated in a large field of the same variety. A
very convenient size of breeding plot is forty rods long and
one hundred rows wide (about twenty rods). Assuming that
the breeding plot is to be located in a forty-acre field, the
first thing is to stake off six or seven acres that contain no
ponds, and where the soil is of uniform richness. If the
ground of the whole field is prepared as corn ground should
be prepared, it is not necessary to give the breeding plot any
extra preparation. Planting should be done in the regular
way until the breeding plot is reached.

Before starting on the first row of the breeding plot, the
corn is all removed from the planter boxes and heavy paper
cones are inserted, if an edge drop planter is used. This is
to keep the corn from shifting to the center of the box.
The corn in sacks No. 1 and No. 2 is placed in each planter
box. If planted three grains to the hill, it will easily plant
the 40 rods, unless the ears were exceptionally small.

A stake should be driven at the end of the plot. As
soon as the driver is even with this stake, the regular field
corn is placed in the planter box. This corn is planted to
the end of the field and back to the stake. "When opposite
the stake on the return, the driver stops and removes all
the field corn in the planter boxes, empties into them the
contents from sacks No. 3 and No. 4, and plants to the place
of starting.

Four rows from ears Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively, have
now been planted. The corn from ears Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8

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are planted on the next round and so on until the plot is
finished. As soon as a row is planted, it is well to tie the
tag on the fence just back of the row. If the tags are
substantial they will serve to mark the rows until the breed-
ing plot has been cultivated the last time. After the corn
is laid by, it is best to place numbered stakes at the end
of each row. (See illustration.) For convenience, the two
sacks to be planted on each return should be taken to the
far end of the plot by the driver, placing them in his pocket
as he starts each round. As soon as the breeding plot is
finished, the planter boxes are filled with the regular seed
of the same variety and the rest of the field is planted.

Now we have a breeding plot in a large field of the same
variety. It is surrounded on three sides with the same kind
of corn, which prevents foreign pollenization. If the 100
ears were carefully shelled and placed in candy sacks as
suggested, it should not take more than five hours longer
to plant this corn than if planted in the regular way. The
breeding plot is cultivated at the same time as is the entire
field; in fact, one would not know that the breeding plot
existed if it were not for the tags at the end of the rows.
To secure a uniform stand, it is well to thin down to two
stalks to the hill after the corn has been plowed the first
time. The ears will be larger with two stalks to the hill
than with three.


It is almost necessary to detassel alternate rows. If not
detasseled, the corn in each row, being from a single ear,
would otherwise be closely inbred. When the alternate rows
are detasseled, the product of the detasseled rows only is
used. It can readily be seen that by this method cross pollen-
ization is insured.


Tasseling time usually comes at a very busy season of
the year, which makes it necessary to get the work done
quickly as well as thoroughly. This work can be done easily
by going between the rows astride a horse muzzled to prevent
destroying the corn. The tassels should be pulled, never cut.
The field should be gone over the first time when about two-
thirds of the tassels are just beginning to show. A second
going over a week later will get practically all of the re-
mainder, providing the work is carefully done. About two
weeks after the detasseling, the plot should be gone through
and all suckers and barren stalks removed. If there are
many suckers the breeder will be well repaid for this work
by the increase in yield.


The best time for the breeder to make observations for
maturity, soundness and position of ear on the stalk, is when
the earliest rows have just matured. The beginner in corn
breeding will be surprised to notice that the husks in some
rows will be brown and dry, while on other rows they will
be quite green.

When it comes to deciding what rows to reserve, your
opinion should be guided largely, but not altogether, by the
weight of corn in the individual rows. If the scales alone
were to make the decision, they would very likely indicate
that we should keep one of the latest maturing rows, since
they are often the highest yielders. To decide by weight
alone would be a very serious mistake. It is not necessary
to husk out and weigh separately every detasseled row in
the breeding plot. The rows that promise apparent quality
should be weighed out, and only those kept for seed that
show a yield above the average.




The purpose of the breeding plot is to determine qualities
not apparent in field selection. No one, not even an expert
corn judge, can pick out the highest yielders merely by
looking at the individual ears. In picking for quality one
might, unknowingly, turn down high yielders. The breeding
plot and the scales give the inherent quality, while score card

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Used in 1913 breeding plot

selection indicates apparent quality and even show corn.
But show corn does not always possess the greatest utility.
Hence, the selection with the ideal in mind should be com-
bined with the breeding plot and scales in order to obtain
seed corn that will grow the greatest number of bushels.
In a herd of 25 brood sows it seldom happens that the


finest show animal is the most prolific, the best mother, etc.
What the individual animal has done in the past is her
performance record. This is the best assurance of what she
will do in the future. At the same time, it is very desirable
that she conform as closely as possible to the score card.

The same is true of corn. Corn is even more susceptible
to breeding than either cattle or hogs, since there is more
room for improvement. For the farmer to know that his
seed corn for the coming season is from a high yielding strain
and will show a high germination test should be as impor-
tant to him as to know that his hogs are prolific or that his
cattle are easy feeders.


Progress in corn breeding is necessarily slow. Neverthe-
less, it should be every breeder's earnest endeavor to make
this progress steady and sure. To be perfectly candid, we
must say that in not a single instance have we ever obtained
spectacular results in corn breeding. If one were to start
with a very low type of corn the results through careful
selection and breeding would undoubtedly be very marked.
But starting with the very best type of the several varieties,
the improvement is not so rapid. In order not to be handi-
capped, the breeder should always start with the very best
seed that can be obtained.

Our own work in corn breeding tends to show that the
ear has very little hereditary tendency to reproduce itself in
size. The matter of size depends more on local field condi-
tions and the hereditary tendency of the kernel. On the
other hand, like kernels from small and large ears of the
same variety often produce ears of the same size. This tends
to prove that a good shaped kernel is of more importance than
a good shaped ear. Medium sized ears out-yield exceptionally



large ears because the very large ear is generally later in
maturing. Hence, the kernel does not have the vitality pos-
sessed by the kernel from the smaller ear. We believe, by
carefully selecting our seed from the high yielding rows in
the breeding plots and, at the same time, following the rules
for field selection, we can accomplish as much in one year as
we could in five by using field selection alone. We are so
sure of this that we are conducting three breeding plots.
Since the results of the breeding plots are always affected to a
considerable extent by season and varying soil conditions,
we are not prepared, as yet, to make the above statements
dogmatically. It will take several more years' experiment on
our part to prove or disprove the above points. The breeder
who guesses at results is a hindrance and not a help to
corn improvement.

There are other points, however, on which we are con-
vinced beyond a doubt : First, a medium type of any variety
of corn will out-yield a very rough type. The result of last
year's breeding indicates that the rough type averaged in
yield only 89.6 per cent of that of the medium type. Mr.
Chas. A. Bowe of Jacksonville has obtained practically these
same results.

Some breeders have had results proving that a very
smooth type will out-yield the rough. We consider, however,
the smooth type a dangerous extreme, since it does not dry
out as well as the rougher type. (The rougher the type the
longer the average length of kernels.) Our results show
that the detasseled rows do not yield as well as the rows
where the tassels are not interfered with. Even if the work
is carefully done, pulling the tassels cuts the yield about
5 per cent. The loss is correspondingly greater if the work
is carelessly done. This shows that detasseling should be
undertaken only in the breeding plot and for the express
purpose of insuring cross pollenization.


Suckering corn and cutting out barren stalks increase
the yield sometimes as much as forty per cent, depending on
the number of suckers and the dryness of the season. Our
greatest gain was the result of cutting out over half the
stalk growth on a very dry year (1913). The sooner this
work can be done after the corn tassels, the better. Two men
in six days can cut out the suckers and barren stalks in the
average forty-acre field. It is not necessary to have an "ear
to the row" breeding plot in order to test the results of
detasseling and suckering. These two experiments can be
made in any field of corn.

There are hundreds of things to be determined by corn
breeding, but the work is so slow that no one individual can
be expected to establish more than a few facts. Realizing
that co-operation was necessary in order to make the most
rapid progress, the Illinois Seed Corn Breeders' Association
was organized in 1900. One member of this association,
Louie H. Smith, assistant chief in plant breeding at the
University of Illinois, has succeeded in breeding a high and
low protein and high and low oil corn. Mr. Smith's work
along this line of breeding has extended over fifteen years.
His results are undoubtedly the most pronounced of any that
have been attempted in corn breeding.

The work of producing hybrid seed has been carried on
by H. J. Sconce, of Sidell, 111. Mr. Leigh F. Maxey, of
Curran, 111., has perhaps done more than any other indi-
vidual in breeding and establishing the type characteristic
of Learning corn.


The corn breeder is often discouraged by adverse condi-
tions over which he has no control. Cutworms may make
.the stand so uneven that the weight of the corn in the indi-


vidual rows would be of no advantage. We have had a
breeding plot ruined by water standing in a depression in
the center of the field. If the scales are to help select seed
by pointing out high yielding strains, the stand must be

This last summer of 1913, which was one of the dryest
crop years we have ever seen, was a poor year for indicating
the relative value of seed from the different rows. We do
not consider our results from that year's breeding to be of
half the value of those obtained in 1911 and 1912. While
these facts are discouraging, the corn breeder is still better
off than the grower of pure bred hogs, who may lose his
entire herd from cholera.


After the corn has been carefully husked and weighed,
the best ears from the most desirable rows should be care-
fully dried by laying on racks. The racks can be of wood
or wire, or the corn can be strung on binder twine. If the
breeding plot is gathered in October, it can safely be dried
by hanging in a dry loft ; but if gathered later, it is generally
best to dry in a mildly heated room, since the germ might
be injured by a sudden cold spell coming before the moisture
was all out of the ear.

One should never go to the other extreme and lay corn
on boards over the furnace. This, of course, will soon dry
the corn, but it will also cause some of the oil to evaporate,
which undoubtedly weakens the germ.

These methods of securing high yielding seed may seem
too expensive to some, but when one stops to consider that an
increase of only ten per cent often means a difference of
from 100 to 400 bushels, on the average farm, one can see
that this time is well spent.

Corn shows and short courses in corn judging are for


the purpose of educating farmers and farmers' boys to grow
more prolific seed and to know how to select and care for it
through the winter. To get the greatest benefit from these
courses offered in corn judging, they should be supplemented
by practical work in corn breeding on the farm.

This chapter has been taken in the main from an article
in the January 15th issue of the Prairie Farmer entitled
''Breeding Corn for Quality and Productiveness," by Ralph
M. Ainsworth.


''Ten Generations of Corn Breeding." By Louie H. Smith.

111. Agri. Ex. Sta. Bulletin No. 128.
"Increased Yields of Corn from Hybrid Seed." By G. N.

Collins. U. S. Dept. of Agri. 1910.
"The Production of Good Seed Corn." By C. P. Hartley.

U. S. Farmers' Bulletin No. 229.
"The Study of Corn." By Vernon M. Shoesmith.


The importance of preserving all the vitality by gather-
ing the seed corn for next year's planting before cold freezing
weather sets in is being appreciated more and more by farm-
ers and corn growers. There are, however, a large number
of farmers who still depend for the coming year's seed upon
the occasional good ear found throughout the husking season.
Still others are satisfied with the best looking ears found in
the corn crib in the spring. The loss sustained by these two
classes varies with the mildness or severity of late fall weather
and the picker's ability to detect the sound from the unsound
seed ears.

Let us say right here that even the most experienced are
sometimes deceived in the condition of the ear by the appear-
ance of the germ. A yellow or brownish embryo and germ
indicate that the corn has been frozen. When the embryo
is wrinkled or pale in color it usually means a loss of vitality
due to long storage. Old corn that has been carried over
one summer should never be planted if sound new corn can
be secured. While old corn will usually grow, it is always
slow in starting, due to the evaporation of some of the oil
from the germ.

A good healthy germ and embryo should be nearly white ;
but germination tests prove that some kernels have white
clean cut germs and still send up a weak sprout due to
exposure and bad storing. The only way to be sure that seed
will grow is to plant only seed that has been carefully dried
before hard freezing weather sets in.





In this latitude, October is undoubtedly the best month in
which to gather seed corn. If this important work is put off
until the middle of November, the vitality of the seed may
be injured by wet weather, followed by a hard freeze. On
the other hand, it is not a good plan, as a general rule, to
gather seed as early as September. Unless there are indi-
cations of early freezes, corn should be allowed to ripen in
the field. Professor P. G. Holden, in "Successful Corn Cul-
ture," says, "It is not a good plan to harvest the seed in


September while the corn is immature, as it is more difficult
to preserve, will be chaffy and give weaker plants than corn
which has been allowed to fully mature on the stalk." Seed
corn that has been picked before it is matured shows a
shriveled condition of the kernels after it is thoroughly dried.


A storeroom or bedroom that can be spared is the best
place for the farmer to store seed corn. The attic, if not too
inaccessible, is also a good place, although zero weather before


the corn was dry would weaken some of the sappiest ears
unless the attic could be heated. Notwithstanding the danger
of frost, the attic is far ahead of the cellar. If there is a
furnace in the cellar the corn is apt to dry too quickly or to
become too dry. Remember, if corn is allowed to become too
dry, it will be slow in starting in the spring. If there is no
furnace in the cellar, the corn will dry too slowly unless it
is well dried before being placed there. Again, the average
cellar does not have sufficient ventilation for the proper
drying and storing of corn. On all good drying days the
windows should be thrown wide open. There is nothing
that dries seed better than a warm, dry breeze blowing
through it as it lays on the racks. When the weather is damp,
the windows should be closed if a door can be opened into
the rest of the house. If not, the windows should never be
closed entirely, unless the room is very large and the amount
of corn small. If a tight room is filled with new corn, the
corn is apt to mold, no matter how well it is hung up, unless
the room is constantly ventilated. Moisture, as it leaves the
corn, must have some means of escaping.


For several years past, we have dried all of our ear seed
corn on wooden racks. These racks are built of one by four
inch uprights in which tenpenny nails are driven every four
inches and on which heavy lathe are laid. .(See illustration.)
The racks are all placed on slatted floors which permit perfect
ventilation. There are a number of good ways to dry seed
corn. An old and very good plan is to string the ears on
binder twine and suspend them from the ceiling. Of late

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Online LibraryWilliam Thomas AinsworthPractical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers → online text (page 7 of 11)