William Thomas Ainsworth.

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

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years, various kinds of wire hangers for drying corn have
been placed on the market. If these hangers are not placed
too close together they will dry the corn as well as any other


method. If the hangers are made out of woven fence wire,
they tangle badly when the corn is removed, and, if made
of steel, they are rather too expensive.


In order to dry corn to the best advantage, the drying
room should be so constructed that it can be thrown open
on all sides in mild weather. It should be tight enough when
closed up to enable it to be evenly heated in cold weather.
A plant built especially for drying corn for seed should be
tall with the floors slatted to allow a free circulation of air
from bottom to top. There should always be ventilating
flues in the roof, and these should never be closed until the
corn is dry. Corn should be gathered early and taken direct
to the plant where it is picked over the same day and laid
on racks or put in ventilated cribs. -Corn, to show the highest
germination, should be gathered as soon as it has ripened
in the field and stored in a room that is frost proof and at
the same time thoroughly ventilated.

Great advancement has been made in the last ten years in
the construction of buildings made especially for the drying
and preparing of seed corn for market. Some well venti-
lated and thoroughly heated plants have not given the best
results, simply because they w T ere filled too full of seed corn.
We are of the opinion that in order to obtain the best results,
no seed drying plant should be filled to more than one-half
of its crib capacity.


There is only one way by which the farmer can be certain
that his seed corn is strong in vitality, that is, to give it a
germination test. By an examination of the germ, most of
us can tell whether the kernel is healthy or dead; but no
man's judgment can be depended upon to detect unerringly
the strong from the weak. For this reason, a sample from all
corn to be planted should be tested and, if it does not show
a germination of at least ninety-five per cent, each individual
ear should be tested.

One hundred good sized ears will plant ten acres. One
man can easily examine and place in the tester the kernels
from four hundred ears in one day. This is enough seed to
plant forty acres, and if only a few weak or dead ears are
revealed by the test, the farmer is well repaid for his trouble.

This question is often asked, If the corn is selected from
the field before freezing weather sets in and is properly
dried will it be necessary to test it? If all this has been
done, it will perhaps not be necessary to test each ear; but
in order to be sure the seed is strong, a fair composite sample
should be tested. If the results do not show uniformly strong
sprouts, the ears should be individually tested and the weak
thrown out. There are so many different conditions that
can weaken the vitality of seed corn that the only safe plan
is to test at least a sample.

All seed sent out by reliable seed corn growers is sold
under a definite germination guarantee of from ninety to
ninety-seven -per cent. This germination is determined after


making numerous tests from all parts of the plant. If a
certain percentage of germination is guaranteed the grower
is honor bound, as well as required by law, to replace or
return the purchase price for all seed falling short of germi-
nation standard.

If there is any doubt about the vitality of seed corn pur-
chased from a seed firm or neighbor, it should be tested
before making a complaint. A conservative seed corn grower
will always guarantee less than the results of the germina-
tion tests, as most breeders do. A guarantee of ninety-five
per cent is a strong guarantee for seed that will usually go
over ninety-nine per cent.

Some customers, in placing their order for seed corn,
state that they expect to test the seed when it arrives; and
if it does not test a certain amount, it will be returned.
This is sometimes a stiff proposition but it is made fairly
and squarely. The breeder alone knows whether or not his
seed will come up to the requirements and the order should
be accepted or declined accordingly.


All seeds, to make the most rapid growth, must be strong
in vitality. The seed bed also must be of the right tempera-
ture and must contain the proper amount of moisture and

If corn is gathered before it has had time to ripen in
the field, the kernels will be immature. Immature corn, due
to the larger amount of sugar in the kernels, will usually
germinate rapidly under ideal conditions, but since it has a
small reserve of plant food, the kernels will rot if the ground
is cold and wet, before the young rootlets have "a chance to
draw from outside sources.



Again, the vitality of the seed will be weakened if sub-
jected to either repeated freezing or high temperatures. Corn
will germinate between the wide variation of from forty-eight
to one hundred and fifteen degrees. It will make the most


rapid growth, however, at ninety-three degrees. Since it will
make a more hardy growth at about eighty degrees, this is
perhaps the best temperature for germination.

Moisture is just as essential as proper temperature. Water
softens the seed covering, dissolves the plant food and carries


it to the growing embryo. Too much moisture, however,
means too little oxygen. This is the principal reason for
seed rotting in heavy, wet land. Corn cannot make rapid
growth without an abundance of air.


Conditions which apply to the field apply equally well
to the seed corn tester. If the seed corn tester is to show
accurately by its results the true condition and the relative
value of the different ears, it must provide sufficient moist-
ure, give ample ventilation, and keep the temperature be-
tween sixty and one hundred degrees. It had better fall
below sixty degrees than go above one hundred degrees. In
order not to give some of the kernels an advantage over
others, the moisture, temperature and ventilation should be
uniform in all .parts of the tester.

The trays should be pigeonholed off in such a manner
that the kernels from e.ach ear can be placed in a separate
pocket so that their identity will not be lost. A good time
to test seed corn is in March. This is late enough for all
the ears to show their true condition and is early enough to
allow the farmer to procure more seed, if the test is unsatis-
factory, before spring work requires his attention.


Before corn is shelled, it should be carefully tipped and
butted since the tip and butt grains are irregular in size,
besides being smaller and larger than the type desired. After
the uneven grains are shelled off the tip and butt ends, the
remaining kernels should be carefully examined and all
off-colored or undesirable grains removed.

The ears are now shelled. If the shelling is done by

(C jurtesy A. T. Ferrell & Co.)



machinery, the spring tension should be as loose as possible
consistent with effective work. If considerable corn is cracked
in shelling, the indications are that the corn was either too
dry, or the sheller is not properly adjusted.

In order to secure a uniformity, a corn grader should be
used. There are hundreds of corn graders on the market.
They range in price from five dollars for small ones to eight
hundred dollars for large graders used in large seed corn
drying plants. The very cheapest corn graders will do better
work than will the average farm fan mill. A good grader
should take out all the large and small grains and about
nine-tenths of the cracked kernels.

It is necessary to take out from twenty per cent to forty
per cent in order to have an even grade. The difference in
yield between graded and ungraded seed is often as much
as ten bushels per acre. This difference is due to the more
even planting of graded seed, not because the smaller and
larger kernels are poorer yielders.


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

"Corn." By Bowman and Crossby.

"Seed Corn Must Make Good." By L. C. Hutcheson. Corn.

March, 1913.
"Make Corn Growing Pay." The Fruit Grower and Farmer,

"Getting Ready for This Year's Corn Crop." Twentieth

Century Farmer. February 22, 1913.
"Ten Bushels More Corn to the Acre." By Robt. H. Moul-

ton. Fruit Grower and Farmer. March, 1913.
"It Pays to Test the Seed Corn." By Arthur Lumbrick.

The Prairie Farmer. March 15, 1913.


Of all the obstacles to the successful growing of corn,
none has ever shown itself in a more serious aspect than the
destruction due to injurious insects and plant diseases. The
problem of how to control them is a hard one and should
receive the attention of every farmer.

We do not feel competent in ourselves to handle this
subject of insects and diseases attacking corn, and for this
reason we have appealed to Prof. S. A. Forbes, Illinois State
Entomologist, who has carefully helped us by correcting and
revising this chapter. In addition to this we want to thank
Professor Forbes for furnishing us illustrations of insects.

On the following pages we shall describe briefly the more
injurious of these insects, and suggest remedies with which
to suppress them.


The Corn Wire worm (Several species of melanotus):
These are the larvas (offspring) of the common snapping
beetles. They are hard, smooth-skinned, reddish brown,
worm-like creatures, and vary in size from the thickness of
a pin to the thickness of a darning-needle. The body is
divided into thirteen segments, and has three pairs of short,
stout legs.

The corn wireworm eats into the kernel after it has been
softened by the moisture in the ground, and also bores into




and even through the underground part of the stalk. This
usually results in the total destruction of the plant.

Their eggs are laid most commonly in grasslands, and
their life history is such that their injuries to corn are most
severe the second year after grass. Late fall plowing and

The Corn Wire-
worm (Melano-
tus cribulosus, )

The Corn Wireworm

(Melanotus cribulosus)


crop rotation with frequent clover crops are the practical
methods employed to prevent injury by this insect.

Seed Corn Maggot (Phorlia fusciceps): This maggot
eats the interior out of both sprouting and unsprouted ker-
nels. The adult is very similar in appearance to the common


house fly. Severe injuries by this insect are unusual, and
there is no known method of preventing them.


The Corn Root Louse (Aphis) : Every farmer has noticed
the little blue insects clustered in great numbers on the

Phorbia Fuseiceps

Phorbia Fuseiceps

roots of the corn. They feed on the juice of the corn root,
and if present in large numbers sometimes kill the plant.
Later in the season another kind of aphis is found on the


leaves, husks and tassels of the plant. There seems to be a
partnership existing between the corn root louse and the com-
mon field ant. The ant places the young of the aphis on
the roots of the corn plant and for this service it feeds on a
liquid known as honeydew, which exudes from the body of
the louse.

Remedy: Thorough cultivation, by checking the work
of the ants has a wonderful effect in lessening the number


Aphis maidiradicis (female)

of the lice. If the ants are working much around the hills
we harrow the young corn. Where furrow openers are used
the harrowing pulls loose dirt around the hills and effectu-
ally checks the work of the ants until after the next rain.
Rotation, however, is a standard practical method of check-
ing the injury although it cannot be said to eradicate this

As the ants winter in old cornfields, with the eggs of the


root lice in their nests, the best preventive of injury is to
prepare the field for corn by deep and early plowing and
repeated discing. This tears up the ants' nests and scatters
the root-louse eggs through the dirt, at the same time keeping
down the young weeds upon which the root lice live until
the corn begins to grow.

The corn root louse has perhaps worked a greater injury
to corn than any other one insect. Every farmer should

Aphis maidiradicis (female)

study the habits of this insect and make every effort to
check its injurious work.

The Corn Root Worm (Diabrotica longicornis) : The
adult of the corn root worm is a beetle; green or yellowish
green in color and about a quarter of an inch long. The
beetle feeds on the pollen and silk and deposits her eggs
in the ground at the base of the stalk. The following spring
these eggs hatch out into the corn root worms.


Since the corn root worm is dependent for its food upon
the roots of the corn the eggs are seldom deposited outside
of the cornfield. It is due to this fact that a cornfield is
never injured by the corn root worm the first year and
even the second year the damage done is usually very slight.
But if the field is put in corn three or four years in succes-
sion it is very doubtful if the last two crops ever escape
without serious injury. In some cases we have known the
yield of corn to be lowered from thirty to forty per cent
as a direct result of the ravages of these insects.

The corn root worm lives on the roots of the corn plant.
They often eat off the ends of the roots of the plant and
then burrow just under the outer covering of the root the
entire length of the root. The corn root worm can be easily
found by carefully splitting an injured root. It is usually
about three-eighths of an inch long and about the thickness
of a pin and of a white or flesh color.

It can safely be said that the damages resulting from the
corn root worm are due entirely to the bad practice of con-
tinuous corn cropping. If a rotation of crops is adopted in
which corn is never grown longer than two years in suc-
cession we shall soon have the corn root worm under easy
control. If crop rotation were only as effective in checking
other insects as it is in heading off the corn root worm, the
insect problem would not present the serious aspect it does.

White Grub (several species of lachnosterna:) This is
the larvae of the common May beetle. These beetles usually
deposit their eggs in fields of grass, timothy and small grains,
and especially in the vicinity of timber where they feed.

The eggs hatch into small brown-headed grubs, which
feed on the grass and corn roots. They do not attain their
full growth until the third or fourth year. They are most
abundant in old blue-grass pastures. Their presence can


be detected by the fact that the grass dies out in the spots
where they are thickest.

The surest way to rid the cornfield of grubworms is to
pasture it with hogs the summer before it is put in corn.
The hogs will root to a depth of a foot or more in search of
grubs. A cornfield that is hogged down is usually free from

White Grub, (L. rugosa)

A June bug, adult of white grub, (Lach-

nosterna rugosa, a), last segments

of male, from beneath

grubs the next year. Rotating with clover and alfalfa is
an effective means of checking the grubs.

The 1913 report of the United States Department of
Agriculture places the damage from white grubs in Iowa,
Wisconsin and Illinois at $7,000,000 during the year 1912.


Cutworms: There are a number of species of cutworms,
all of which are more or less troublesome to the farmer.
They are mostly clumsy and greasy-looking caterpillars of



a grayish or brownish color and from one to two inches long.
The cutworm works mostly at night and during cloudy
weather and stays in its hiding place on bright days.

Glassy Cutworm (Hadina devastrix)

It works its injury to the corn by cutting off the young
plant just above the ground. The adults of cutworms are

Adult of Glassy Cutworm

Late fall plowing is almost a sure remedy since the cut-
worm is thrown on the surface and exposed to freezing
weather. At this time of year the worm is in the dormant
state and is unable to burrow back into the ground.


A method which we have found very effective in exter-
minating cutworms on our own fields is to work the ground
at such frequent intervals in the spring that every particle
of vegetation is destroyed. If no "plant growth is allowed
to start during April the greater portion of the cutworms
will be killed by starvation. This insect cannot withstand
hot weather with no green vegetation to feed upon.

Fortunately these worms have many natural enemies;
among them are the quail, robin, thrush and other birds,
which together keep their numbers down to a considerable
extent. These birds are among the best friends the farmer
has and should be protected in every way possible. There
are many other insects which attack the stalk and ear but
the limitations of this book will not permit of their


Ear Rot: This is a mold and belongs to the great group
of plants called fungi. The ear rot is whitish or pinkish in
appearance and in many cases the husks and silks are
cemented to the ear. The affected parts have lost their sub-
stance and are light in weight and brittle in appearance.

It is not definitely known how ear rot is caused, but it is
generally conceded that moisture and temperature have con-
siderable to do with it. "We are of the opinion that dry
weather in the fall followed by several weeks of warm wet
weather are ideal conditions for the spreading of this dis-
ease. "We had such a season as this in the fall of 1911,
which was the year when dry rot wrought its greatest damage
in central Illinois. "When the weather conditions are not so
favorable the disease seems to be confined to the very tip
of the ear, in which case the damage is very slight.

It is estimated that the loss to the corn crop in the United


States from this disease must sometimes amount to at least
$25,000,000 in one year.

Remedy: Since the spores live through the winter on the
old corn stalks some authorities urge the farmer to burn
the old stalks. It is our opinion, however, that the stalks
turned under will be a greater benefit to the land than the
injury due to the ear rot will be to the crop. Since the ear
rot does not attack any other crop than corn it is better to
put the field in some other crop and the corn on new ground
if the field was badly affected with the disease the year before.

Smut: Besides ear rot, smut is the only other disease
which injures corn to any extent. Smut in appearance is
greenish white or black and is usually noticed on the green
stalk or leaf. Smut grows very rapidly and sometimes forms
balls four inches in diameter. These balls are composed of
millions of plants which are individually too small to be seen
with the naked eye. While infection may be brought about
directly by the spore alighting on the corn plant it is chiefly
due to the conidia which are the result of the spore germi-
nating in manure or heavily manured soil. While corn smut
is abundant all over the United States, it seems that the
injury in any one field is never great. Every year we see
more or less smut in our own fields, but we have never
known a field to be injured as much as one per cent.

It is claimed by many farmers that smut is injurious to
cattle and horses and that it is the cause of the corn-stalk
disease. In order to prove or disprove this opinion the
Bureau of Animal Industry has carried on a number of
experiments in feeding smut to cattle and horses. The results
of these experiments show that there are no injurious effects
produced by feeding smut. The best way to kill smut is to
cut out and burn the diseased stalks, but this will not pre-
vent its reappearance unless it is practiced over a large





We stated in the chapter on "Rotation of Crops" that
crop rotation was worth more than all other methods com-
bined in checking insect enemies and plant diseases. "We
want to repeat here that the greater part of the injury result-
ing from insects and diseases attacking corn can be traced
directly to the continuous cropping of corn year after year.
The methods we have used in checking these pests on our
own farms are crop rotation, thorough and clean culture,
and in some cases fall plowing and pasturing with hogs.
Various insecticides are practical and helpful to the gardener
and orchardist, but in our opinion they are rather too expen-
sive for the Corn Belt farmer. Farmers by co-operation can
often accomplish more than they could by individual efforts.
All toads, most of the snakes and birds, and many of the in-
sects are the farmers' friends, and should be protected in
every way possible.


"No man Tcnows all there is to be known about farm-
ing let us all get together and learn from each other."

From the above quotation we received the inspiration to
write to thirty-five of the best farmers in the Corn Belt and
ask them to give us the benefit of their experience as corn
growers. The thirty letters on the following pages are the
result of our investigation. It was necessary, because of
the lack of space, to condense some of the letters but in no
case have we taken anything from these letters because it
advocated a practice contrary to our own.

Some of these methods of culture described are different
from our own ideas but we are firmly convinced that the
letters taken as a whole advocate a practical, thorough cul-
ture and represent the methods employed by the best farmers
in the different parts of the Corn Belt.

"We want to thank, sincerely, our farmer friends who took
the time to send us these splendid letters telling how they
grow corn. From some of the letters we have received some
valuable suggestions which we expect to test out next spring
and summer.

Experience is surely the best teacher and for this reason
we have tried to eliminate theory and make this book a
book of corn experience. How well we have succeeded must
be left to the judgment of the reader.



Larehland, Illinois.
W. T. Ainsworth & Sons, Mason City, Illinois.

Gentlemen: Our soil is heavy, rich and level. I plow what ground
I can in the fall and the rest in the spring, and it is plowed as deep
as the team can pull the plow. It should be plowed eight to ten
inches deep.

All stalks are cut and turned under in order to add humus to the
soil. As soon as the ground is plowed in the spring it is harrowed
and later it is worked into a seed bed with the harrow and disc.

I use weeders both before and after the corn is up in preference
to the harrow.

I start plowing corn when it is from two to six inches tall. The
first time over I cultivate deep, but later cultivations are shallower. I
cultivate the corn all I have time to, which, of course, varies with dif-
ferent seasons. The cultivation is always continued until the corn is
BO tall it begins to break under the arch of the cultivator.

I shall look forward to receiving your book on "Practical Corn
Culture." Very respectfully yours,


Arcola, Illinois, April 9th, 1913.
W. T. Ainsworth & Sons, Mason City, Illinois.

Dear Sirs: I am writing in answer to your letter to give you my
experience as a corn grower.

Our soil is a black, heavy loam and is very level; in fact, it is so
level that it is necessary to survey before laying tile.

We think our soil is the cream of the Corn Belt, at least that is
what the wise men at Champaign tell us.

I prefer to have my corn ground plowed in the fall and usually
succeed in getting all the sod and pasture plowed at that time. I am

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Online LibraryWilliam Thomas AinsworthPractical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers → online text (page 8 of 11)