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Corn – just a-maize-ing!

My earliest and perhaps fondest memory of planting a crop was the first time I planted corn seeds. I recall being only six years old, sprinkling the seeds in an empty space of land behind my home.

As the days went by, it sparked a light in my mind and heart as I watched the seeds germinate and eventually grow into stalks that were taller than I. I would never forget the joyful feeling of harvesting the first ears of corn.

When people usually ask why I embarked on pursuing agriculture as a career option, I usually explain the rewarding sensation of planting, growing, nurturing and reaping a crop.

Corn, (Zea mays), also known as Indian corn/maize is a cereal plant of the grass family (Poaceae). It is an edible grain. The domesticated crop originated in the Americas, however it was first domesticated by native peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago.

Corn is used as livestock feed, as human food, as biofuel, and as raw material in industry. The corn plant is a tall annual grass with a stout, erect, solid stem. The large, narrow leaves have wavy margins and are spaced alternately on opposite sides of the stem.

The tassel is a group of male flowers which produce pollen, the female flowers develop into the corn which is referred to as the ear and the long soft threads at the top of the corn are called the silk. Corn is a simple crop to grow in your backyard or commercially. To speed germination, moisten seeds, wrap in moist paper towels, and store in a plastic bag for 24 hours. Sow seeds about 1.5 to 2 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart.

You may choose to fertilise at planting time with a 10-10-10 fertiliser ie 10 per cent nitrogen, 10 per cent phosphate and 10 per cent potash. Fertilise at weeks 3, 5 and 7 of growth.

For commercial production, the fertiliser can be broadcast (a planting process where seed is scattered by hand or mechanically on the ground) within the rows of plants.

For small scale, backyard gardening the fertiliser can be placed around the individual plant. Each plant requires approximately 10-15 grams of fertiliser per application. Corn is meant to grow rapidly. Water well but not to waterlog the soil.

Young green corn is ready for harvesting at 10-12 weeks after the seeds were planted, the semi-mature green stage will be ready for harvesting at 12-14 weeks after planting and the mature dried corn will be ready for harvesting at 14-16 weeks after planting.

For pest and disease control, spray with a systemic insecticide at the recommended rates to manage and control the corn earworm and the corn army worm.

In case you were wondering, baby corn is produced from regular corn plants that are harvested early, while the ears are immature. They are not a separate variety. Corn can be companion planted with beans and squash and the best time to consume corn is immediately after harvest.


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