“Every few days for the last month I’ve visited the corn field and gone deep inside it, shouldering aside the stalks like a crowd of skinny giants. I would twist off an ear, pull back the husk, brush aside the silks, and sigh. The kernels were rounded, small and milky, and frost could come any day. But frost held off and in the last two weeks the kernels have grown increasingly heavy and full, and they now have a deep dent in the center. That is the look of mature dent corn, and that is a very good thing. If frost had halted its growth, the immature kernels would have molded instead of drying down. The ear I picked yesterday was healthy, mature, and larger than any we’ve ever grown.
Corn yield is limited by genetics but also conditions; the plant regulates its offspring like a ruthless mother. In good times, with lots of nitrogen, it produces heavily. In times of scarcity it invests all it can into fewer seeds. One counts the number of kernels around the cob to see what kind of year it has been. On poor ground, we’ve had as few as ten or twelve. This year, we got sixteen. On the ear I picked, each row numbered 50 kernels. That’s 800 kernels per ear, a yield of 800:1. No wonder corn is such a hungry queen.
Thanks, drainage, thanks, compost, thanks soil, and thank you good horses and farmers for getting us to this point. Of course, we still have to contend with deer, raccoons, crows, and the possibility of an early snow or freak storm before harvest. Nothing is truly sure until it is sold – or eaten!” (Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.)
- Essex Farm: Color (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Bittersweet Fall (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Nature Will Find a Way (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Essex Farm: Big Harvests (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)