Project #Watch Them Grow

August 6th Update

We are finally getting some rain this afternoon, but boy has it ever been dry.  It’s been close to a month our last rain.

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Corn “firing”

As you can see from this picture, the corn has been “firing from the ground”.  This means that the plant has run out of water and it is taking the nutrients out of the bottom leaves and putting them towards the ear.  This is a self protection measure that the plant has to finish out producing the kernels on the ear of corn.  A plant’s number one job is to produce kernels.

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Picture taken August 6, 2014

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Picture taken July 29, 2014

These pictures were taken one week apart.  This week’s picture is lighter green and shows a lot more stress.  Although the summer overall has been mild, the few days of 100 degree temperatures and hot winds have taken their toll along with the lack of rain.

IMG_2711 Since the main goal is how many kernels of corn will be ready for harvest, let’s look at the ear.  Luckily, it was mild enough during kernel development that this particular ear hardly “tipped back” or aborted kernels.

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Right now the corn kernels are finishing out prior to harvest, and the drought impact will be on the kernel weight and the depth of the kernels.

So when will harvest be?  The weather conditions adjust the amount of time from planting to harvest – for example, is it cool after the seeds are planted so it takes a long time before the plants pop up?  Is it a mild summer and the plants aren’t getting the heat units it needs to progress forward?

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Look at the cracks in the field!

It has been so dry.  However, as I’m typing this we are finally getting some much needed rain!

July 30th Update

One of the favorite farmer sayings around here is, ‘we’re always two weeks from a drought’.  Truth.  A couple weeks ago, we could not say enough about the nearly ideal growing conditions we’d been having.  Today, not as much.  It’s been around two weeks since we have had rain, and some corn field are starting to have the “ears drop” because the plants are running out of moisture.

On a farm, one talks about the weather a lot.

Since my last update, the corn tasseled and pollinated (see the July 1st update for how the pollen travels to each kernel).  The corn plant has up to about one week before the silk dry up to pollinate.

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Notice how the silks on this plant are dried up and brown.  Once the silks are dry pollination is complete.

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The silks on this ear are brown inside the shuck too.  Compare to July 1st when the silks were fresh and plentiful around the ear.

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Do you think it’s more important to have more kernels around the cob or more kernels the length of the cob?  In fairness, the answer is both – the more kernels on the cob the better!  But kernels around the cob, the better.  This ear has 16 kernels around and 37 kernels in length.

July 1st Update

 This field of corn is now about 6’ tall.  It started to tassel yesterday.  There are only a few ears that show silks today, but likely by tomorrow most will show their silks.  Over the next several days the corn will pollinate.  Each corn kernel has a silk attached to it. The silks are like a straw that the pollen will travel down to the individual kernels.  I’ve attached a picture of the miniature ear of corn with all the silks surrounding it.

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Corn on July 1 ~ 6′ tall and just started to tassel yesterday.

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Top of corn plant – the tassel!

A forecast of not too hot of temperatures and some rain would be just what the doctor ordered while the corn is pollinating.  It looks like we’re going to have moderate temperatures, but not much rain in the forecast.  However, we’ve had nice rains the past few weeks, so hopefully there will be enough subsoil moisture.

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The silks have not yet come out on this plant – likely tomorrow.

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This ear is showing its silks. Ready to start pollinating!

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Look close. This is the little corn ear. Notice all the silks surrounding the ear. There’s one silk per kernel.

 June 25th Update

 On June 18th, the corn was just a little taller than my 4 year old MessMaker.  One week later, it was a couple feet taller than he is.  We continue to have nearly ideal conditions for the weather.  What are nearly ideal weather conditions?  We’ve had rain every few days, not too hot of daytime temperatures, and heavy dew in the morning.  It feels a little steamy outside, but that’s what corn plants love.

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Where’s Waldo? Or my MessMaker. This corn was just above his head on June 18th. By June 25th it was a couple feet taller than he is.

Setting potential – Over the past few weeks, the corn has been setting its maximum potential.  The plant determines the maximum number of kernels around the cob and longest length that the ear can achieve.

What’s next?  In the next week or so, this corn will start to tassel and then pollinate the corn kernels.  After pollination, we’ll start to scout the fields to estimate yields.  Since each plant established their maximum yield over the past few weeks, whatever kernels are on each ear will try to pollinate, then we’ll have good idea of what the best possible yield could be.  However, things are still in Mother Nature’s hands.  First, if we have too hot of weather during pollination, then we won’t get a good fill on the cobs.  Second, any stresses after pollination, such as, too hot or dry conditions will cause the ears to start to abort kernels at the tip of the cob.  The corn does best around 86 degrees.

Try this – Sweet corn is very close to our field corn.  Next time you eat sweet corn, start at the bottom and notice how if you count the kernels around you will come out with an even number.  Then look up the ear towards the tip, if there are kernels at the tip that aren’t as plump, that means that the crop endured some sort of stress and the corn plant aborted those kernels.

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This is our sweet corn that had just tasseled on June 17th. Notice how much shorter it is than the field corn. We can’t wait until it’s ready to eat!

Until next week – check out a couple other blogs who are also doing Project #WatchThemGrow.

June 20, 2014

As you can see the corn is about the same height as my MessMaker.  He was 44” at his doctor’s appointment a few weeks ago.

IMG_2348IMG_2350IMG_2351The past few weeks we have had nearly ideal growing conditions.  We’ve been very fortunate to miss some of the severe weather that others have had.  We’ve had consistent rains that have come nice and gentle and not too hot temperatures.  Corn likes humidity.  Next week will be warmer, but one could argue that our crop won’t mind it if it’s a little warmer during the day and a little cooler at night.

June 4 & 13, 2014

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June 4, 2014

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June 13, 2014

We have had a lot of rain over the past week.  Just over 5″.  We certainly needed the moisture, but would like to space it out a little bit and add in a little sunshine!  The corn has really grown over the past 2 weeks since I last posted.

May 28, 2014

Each week until harvest, I will share a picture of what this corn look like.  This corn was planted on May 11th.

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