Compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program
Work Projects Administration in the
State of Florida
STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
State-Wide Sponsor of the
WORK PROJECTS ADMINISTRATION
. HUNTER, Acting Commissioner
Although broomcorn is not at present cultivated ex-
tensively in Florida, it can be grown successfully in every
county of the State, and holds considerable promise for
the future. It can be planted on fields after other crops,
such as potatoes and tomatoes, have been harvested.
Where brush is cured before threshing, fully matured
seed has the same food value as oats. Stalks can be
plowed under to return valuable organic matter to the
In small communities,
brush in the manufacture
the sale of which brings
are perfecting a process
products from broomcorn
new markets to farmers.
many growers utilize their
of brooms during spare time,
in added revenue. Scientists
to make paper and cellulose
stalks, and this should open
ROLLA A. SOUTHWORTH, Director,
Division of Community Programs.
4I 94I 99*9*9* I'O I t I *..... S 99e ** 9
General Requirements .....
V varieties ......... ...... ..........
Standard Group ...............
Western Dwarf Group.....
Evergreef Dwarf .....
Black Spanish Dwar
Whisk Dwarf Group.......
Japanese Dwarf..... ..
Culture ........ ..... ................
Sources of Seed .........
11 ~ ~ ~ ~ ** 4I .I .I .11 .I .411 .I 499.........9 I 11
*I .411 *9* 9 4..... ....4. ...... ......
*I .9 9 4 9 .. I. . .I................. I ..
*fos 1 .m 9i 9 IIII ...... ...... .. .. ..
S9 9 . . . . .. . *. 9 . 4 4 .
I .I 9. .. 9ll *...............................9( II II II I
1 9...... ...........................................................................
h ...................... .........
M markets ........ .... ........... ..... ..
Time and Method of Marketing.
Uses for Seed and Stalks.............
R returns ................
,duction and Markets.
* 9.. .. ... ..999 .
. .. .. 9 9 .
994 .4 .9. .9. 99. ... .. ............ ......
*. .. ....**.....94999 ............
**4**S* 4* 49**1111* *9*49 94944
449499*11)111 4*4*4 9*II *9**49 4944
Prod uedon in the United 8tate
Violrl n A QkaaQp mna 9A o mar a Dan. ..In +. .Ia.
Broomcorn is a
for more than th
plant is said to
States by Benjam
gan near Hadley,
shifts to cheaper
est is in east-cent
Oklahoma; and 1
corn district, are
a type of so:
used in the
rghum which produces long
manufacture of brooms and
has been grown in Europe
s its origin is unknown. The
introduced into the United
Commercial production be-
but, following successive
centers gradually moved
At present there are
ucing centers. The old-
Illinois. Another is in south-central
third embraces, in the dwarf broom-
in western Oklahoma, southwestern
Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and eastern New Mexico.
Broomcorn has been successfully cultivated in Florida.
At present its production is centered in Dade County
where as much as 240 acres have been planted.
Average yields range from 600 pounds of
acre in Illinois, to 200 or 300 pounds an acre in
districts where rainfall is limited and farming
are less intense. Production in Florida averages
mately 500 pounds per acre.
Broomcorn is most suc
climate is warm and the
_. 1 .-S a..aaJ a.e..alje1..u-
Successful in regions where the
soils are fertile and moist. A
L~~~~~~. -a aIa-t a a2Jaa
DEPARTMENT OF ALMGUICULTURE
tion the annual precipitation images from 15 inches in
Colorado to 32 inches in Illiniils. While the average an-
nual precipitation for Florida la approximately 52 inches,
allowance should be made too'or the moisture-retaining
qualities of local soils and tie s length of time they are
exposed to the sun's rays.
The numerous types and varieieties of broomcorn grown
in the United States may be cllelassifed in three groups:
standard, western dwarf, and whisk dwarf.
Standard broomcorn ranges f from seven to fifteen feet
height and bears a brush f from 1 6 to 24 inches in
length. The "handle," or stemna, of the brush, at least 8
inches in length, is so strong asattached to the stalk that,
at harvest, it is usually cut inti;tead of being pulled. All
types of brooms are manufactured from the brush of this
group which includes three VeIsell-known varieties: Ever-
green, Black Spanish, sometimes known as "Black Jap,"
and California Golden (Aksdl-hen). Two of these, the
Black Jap and Evergreen, ate:sr several trial plantings,
have been found satisfactory fdsor
sented in many
are: White Ita
the White Itali
strains now widelely grown,
coarse for good
three are pIoractically
s said to ble of a ino
ome strain;. produce
I brooms. TThe Evern
chief of which
a brush too
8 to 15 feet in
Black Spanish. This variety produces a finer, straighter
brush and is reputed to be less subject to reddening than
the Evergreen. Its popularity is due more to these quali-
ties than to its yield. The Black Spanish, which ranges
from 6 to 11 feet in height, is somewhat earlier than the
Evergreen. It is characterized by a dark brown or black
Western dwarf broomcorn ranges from 4 to 7
height and bears brush 15 to 24 inches in length
weakly attached to the stalk, it is not cut, but
"pulled" or "jerked" in harvesting. The brush, e
to one-half or two-thirds of its length by the "b
the upper lea sheath which often collects water
sects, is frequently reddened thereby and made
from a market standpoint. The chaff is either
dark red at maturity. Western dwarf broomcorn
naively grown in semi-arid regions, and is used
in the manufacture
Three distinct varieties
Dwarf (Oklahoma Dwarf),
are grown: the
This type attains a height of 2 ,
a slender brush, ranging from 12
at least three-fourths of which is
The short stem is easily detached a:
fore usually harvested by pulling.
tensively in the manufacture of wl
times for the insides of floor brool
to 4 feet and develops
to 18 inches in length,
covered by the boot.
nd this variety is there-
It has been used ex-
hisk brooms and some-
A *9 -I 1
other types and is subject to reddening.
usually dark red. Although known for
years, it is not widely cultivated.
Sorghums usually exhaust the
effects on crops which follow them.
in the case of broomcorn because
what earlier than other sorghums.
soil with deleterious
This is not so marked
it is harvested some-
In the west and middle-west broomcorn is
other tilled crops which follow, whenever p<
grain or sod crops. In some places it is p
nately with cotton. Broomcorn is harvest
time to permit the planting of winter wheat.
Florida it is usually planted on land from wh
or potatoes have been harvested.
ed in ample
Seedbed Preparation. Ground for broomcorn, if the
soil is heavy, is usually plowed, and disked or harrowed.
On listed land the ridges should be broken previous to
planting. If stalks from other crops have been left on
the land, disking is often necessary.
Source of Seed. Seed is usually obtained from reliable
dealers or neighboring growers who take precautions to
see that their product is high grade and free from smut,
or from the grower's own farm. Since one acre of broom-
e from $
an average of 25 bushels of
proximately 500 acres, only
to supply the demand. Good
i2 to $10 a bushel, or from 10c
a few growers
seed ranges in
to 70c an acre
Where broomcorn is grown for seed, it is left in the
bushels of seed.
Many growers leave crooked
brush in the
for future plantings. Some f
percentage of crooked brush
However, agronomists of the
of Agriculture (Farmers' Bi
"if the original seed was of i
of being inherent in ti
is just as good as thai
the regular practice
heavy seed may
age of the seed f
ie variety, the seed f]
t from other sources.
of saving seed from
I field to ma-
rs claim that
Its from this
ed States De-
i No. 1631),
e lot and the
m the crooks
:rooks is not
y cleaning the seed piles left
not wholly satisfactory, for
recovered in this manner, it is
other sorghums, and a large pe
Planting. Although list
of labor, it sometimes resu
wash out the seeds or bu
higher when broomcorn
planter on land which is
planting is more economical
in failure due to rains which
corn plates are provided by
made by boring 3/16" or 1/4"
iem too deep. Yields
wn with a corn or cc
Lt broke." Special bri
manufacturers, or cai
holes in blank plates.
warm soil. In
result from the
A afas T A slrax
nakes the best growth when planted in
Dade County the planting period extends
to May. At least two distinct advantages
, practice of making two or more succes-
In the first place, fewer men are needed
if several lots reach maturity at different
a if +hara i a anffinan" tn awuaal haofwaan
In the humid sections of the north, and in
Florida it is desirable to have the plants stand
mately three inches apart, and from 60 to 75
rod is consi
it is necessa
the rod dep
ry to pl
tance between rows
plant at the rate of 70 to
on the condition of the
of the seed. Spacing d:
es and, in new sections
most satisfactory practi
varies from three to four
corn is sometimes planted
in hills but this method is not
Cultivation. Unless th
played in germinating, a
production. Growth is sl
are delicate. Cultivation
if the soil
e soil is
ow at fir
1 tilled before
to those used
In Florida a
i two or three
st and t
)roomcorn is de-
i, or other
n southern Floi
July which ha
iloyed during t
in the northern
rn is harvested in
ge of keeping local
k season. In other
southern Texas to
When the brush cl
green, broomcorn is
not start until the co
is completed. Brush
still yellow, will be f
ready to harvest, an
loring process, from 1
harvested while the 1
labby at the bottom.
pale yellow to
i work should
ip to knuckle,
ower ends are
For these reasons harvesting should be done promptly.
Since the work must be accomplished by hand labor,
large crews are necessary. Small growers exchange labor
during this period while those with considerable acre-
age hire crews who do the harvesting, threshing, and
baling on shares or a contract basis.
All broomcorn, whether standard or dwarf, is har-
vested either by cutting or pulling. Since a ton of cured
brush contains from 40,000 to 70,000 heads, and must be
handled in small armfuls to avoid tangling during the
curing, threshing, and baling processes, 10 to 14 days
Some standard broomcorn is harvested with a corn
binder but the usual procedure is to "table" or "break"
the crop before cutting. The worker walks between two
rows and breaks or bends the stalks across each other to
form a "table" with the heads extending out beyond the
rows at a height convenient for cutting---approximately
three feet. The worker generally begins cutting after
making two tables.
Cutting is done
ing the brush in
the point where
knife, and exert
through the boo
handle or stem ca
stalk it must be
thrown on altern
for loading on a
of brush is piled i
is the "lay-off."
i with a special broomcorn knife. Grasp-
one hand, the worker pulls the stem, at
it is to be cut, against the blade of the
ts an outward pull as the blade cuts
it. By this method, the brush and its
an be withdrawn before the boot is corn-
If by accident the boot is cut from the
pulled from the stem. The brush is
Late tables in armfuls of convenient size
wagon. The table on which the armful
s known as the "lay-on" table; the other
ordinarily harvest from thresee to
acre, or three
ent sections o
or contains a
f the col
h acre, <
paid by 1
day," Tables vary in differ-
le average midwest table is
ows 80 0 rods long. Inexperi-
, can harvest approximately
If the broomcorn is lodged
good table. In harvesting such
quently breaks the stalks over,
same row, then turns and cuts
toward him. When the stand is s
the brush is often cut without
aocro p the
the se brush
even feet or
high, in the
less in height
md piled on
stalks broken to hold the bunches oftif the ground.
e brush is usually hauled of theield within 24 hours
cutting. Florida growers, horme2* claim that a val-
start in curing
on. the rear axl
is commonly emp
seed ends outward
obtained by v san-d
ng, while spnoread
mnd held dorvwn in
loyed. The brush
i, and haulesed to i
it is slipped off in piles closes tc the
Irvin upD to
- 0' ~
on tables in
front by a
is piled on
te curing shed
Dwarf broomcorn is harvested in
much the same man-
nr is required. The
the top of "fla
such a manner
where it unites
corn often find
second or third
tursl at tha first
the ends of th
g" leaf in the
that the stem i
with the stalk.
it necessary to
i time to pull
e bnuh. in one hai
other and exerts a
s smralpp ed off at th
brush n which
to the work, ca
" It is felt only
o lasting effect.
the skin, especially to
worker perspires and,
t may be washed off,
sections of the southwest most
of the b]
is threshed after curing and
in the humid sections it is t
latter practice results in a
cause when the material is mo
does not knock off so ma
ist and fl
ny of th
duty, self-feeders requiring a crev
to the light, hand-fed machines o]
'00 to 1,500 re'
a speed many
peed is too slo
are capable of
w, the ma
v of from 15 to 30 men,
operated by two or more
?ed with two cylinders
ns, their speed ranging
minute. If operated at
hes are broken off, and
chine will not perforni
operated by small gas
c provided care is exer-
In harvesting, I
brush. When a
curing shed, part
entire crew usual
by teams and m
the field crew we
work in the
Unless the brush is evened at the butts or tips and fed
evenly into the thresher a great deal of seed will remain.
A number of men are, therefore, required to untangle
the brush, sort out defective material, and even up that
cleaned brush from the thresher and p
in the curing shed. The charge for
where the grower furnishes the crew,
ferent areas from $4 to $6 a ton.
laces it on shelves
ranges in the dif-
If left for a considerable period in the field, brush will
y quickly in the shed, but if exposed for more than 24
urs in the field it may become bleached. In most broom-
rn sections brush may be piled on slats in the curing
ed to a depth of two or three inches depending on the
iount of moisture it contains; but in south Florida,
where contrary to the usual procedure in humid climates,
the brush is cured before threshing, it may not be piled
more than one-half inch deep without danger from heat-
ing. One south Florida grower does not advise the use of
sheds, but prefers covered racks not more than two rows
10 feet high and
) to four fe
left open a
it width an<
fet beyond 1
interior is '
crosswise or lengthwise in
length. The roof extends from
re plate and the ends and sides
;able ends, above the plate, are
vided into stalls or bents, seven
vhich may be arranged either
The posts or studs which form the stalls a
built sheds, creosoted and set on a concrete
should be long enough in the interior to reach
One by four inch boards, spaced two inches a
to the posts, serve as braces and form cleats o
slats are placed.
long. When plac
one-half foot widt
are, in well-
n which the
The slats are 1x2 inch boards eight feet
ed on the cleats across the seven and
:h of the stalls they nuvrlan three inchsn
From 10 to 14 days, or more in damp weather, are re-
quired to complete the curing process. Green threshed
brush loses approximately half its weight by ev
of its moisture content before it is dry enough
In some sections broomcorn growers "bulk" t
before baling, that is, the brush is removed from
and piled to a height of 4 to 6 feet, in the sh
leaves most of the shed available for another
lessens the drying or shrinkage of the brush, ane
the size of the crew needed for baling. This p
not employed in Florida. In some western distril
from 3 to
s scant, broomcorn is sometimes cured
5 feet high and tapering upward from
the bottom. This saves considerable la
but involves the risk of over-bleaching
a from the weather.
brush present an
command the best
is advised in baling
To obtain uniformil
to the ma
bales or those containing tangled
unattractive appearance and do not
price. Considerable care, therefore,
secure a neat and unit
r of appearance a table
placed near the baler
ih may be "butted" before the
o places then
rush he spree
stems outward and careful
the hopper, the brush being
the tips overlapping in the
RO hr A
t gate is closed and
SAilled. Then the l1
compressed to bale
he wire used is No.
of 125 wires each.
K hv OR t i9 t 4a+1=-.
or other flat
so that the
y are handed
As this man
at alternate ends
I filling continues
id is clamped in j
size and secured
9, 10, or 11, that
The average bale
no wi an wI a, S e, Ofl
A O OrA
Most baling is done by
horsepower, but hand-operated
machines are used by small growers.
Two balers are fre-
quently used on a job when threshing is done at the same
placed in one baler while a bale is being tied in another.
Where the grower provides the crew, the charge for cus-
tom baling ranges from $1 to $1.50 a ton. In some areas,
cost from $5 to $6 a ton.
The cost of baling wire ranges
Baled brush may be stored indefinitely
but in Florida
a wood floor
rot quickly if stored on a concrete floor.
classified for market,
which it is adapted.
the types depending on the
Short or stemmy
as "handle corn"
" is used for the inner por-
on the shoulders of the
the outside of the broom and is called "hurl."
A lot con-
which go into a broom is
which is often flat or twisted.
best brush has a
It is bleached
at the factory before being made into
ing, a common defect
caused by overmaturity,
rvest or fro
Sto rain, o
especially in dwarf
may result from excessive
m prolonged exposure to the
by mold, contact with the
r by heating and burning
r insect in-
wr. Unless there is a scarcity of long brush,
medium length commands the best price. A
y fiber is of medium diameter, straight, stan,
pull without breaking, and has a good spring
The fibers should branch from the stem near
to form a definite knuckle. Fiber from 15 t
in length is used in the manufacture of ordil
s. Longer fiber must be trimmed or used in 1
or warehouse brooms while that less than 15 inches long
is made into whisk brooms.
amount of seed will be heavier
threshed, the price received f
compensate for the labor inv
grower does not remove the a
ing this work must be done
broom is completed.
,r than that which
or the latter wil
'olved in securing
ieeds cleanly du
at the factory
:h is cle
ig it. Ii
Defective Brush. Standards for grading broomcorn
have been published by the Bureau of Agricultural Eco-
nomics of the United States Department of Agriculture.
missile in 4
corn is not
fa nirrn n A al
bale of burl
on this basui
gh it does n
lA aanu, kAA i
,thickness, and defects per-
or underwork, but all broom-
. Unless the market price is
ot pay to harvest brush con-
* 4. lt a Sal a n a n a- aan -1-
Spikes, or "tree tops"
are short, branched stems which
an insufficient moisture supply,
has opportunity to stiffen.
frequently in tall varieties of broomcorn and result from
part has value.
Curley or twisted brush may be used for insides when
the defects do not extend too far from the knuckle.
brush, caused by poor seed strains, thin spacing, or exces-
can be used
contains center stems
only in cheap brooms.
only for inside
brings a lower price.
There are few local markets for broomcorn brush, and
produced in south Florida is used in a grower-
other States broomcorn is fre.
. commission d
broker, or shipped to terminal markets having warehouse
TIME AND METHOD OF MARKETING
Broomcorn prices, quoted only in a few trade journal
and local newsnaners. are not based on grades or quality
when factory needs are supplied
only speculative prices.
the surplus commands
Co-operative marketing has not been uniformly suc-
cessful because production cannot be controlled. The
wide areas adapted for production and the comparatively
small acreage required to supply the demand are factors
which prevent growers associations from establishing an
effective control of markets.
In many communities small growers utilize their brush
. Equipment fo
at nominal cost,
:t. One ton of
to 1,200 brooms,
brooms during spare
s depend wholly
dispose of the
vides material f
60 per cent are
30 per cent medium, and 10 per cent first grade.
USES FOR SEEDS AND STALKS
Fully matured seed has approximately the same food
lue as oats but where the brush is harvested at the
oper time and threshed before drying the seeds are
without appreciable value. In the
others where brush is first cured u
seed will contain some value as a
western districts and
and then threshed the
Broomcorn stalks, if thoroughly dry, are burned in
some districts, but as a rule they are disked in for humus.
By setting fire to the tables, one man can burn off about
20 acres a day; but if necessary to cut and rake the stalks
before burning, labor costs and time are increased. By
using a tractor-drawn 18-inch sulky plow the stalks can
be plowed under, an operation that returns a consider-
-L .... .J --.....A... A_ -- a.e
and cellulose products from broomcorn
work is still in an experimental stage.
YIELDS AND RETURNS
and as h
range from less than 200
and individual lots have
igh as $500 a ton while
to $200 a ton.
to 600 pounds of brush
brought as low as $40,
production costs vary
The following is quoted from Fmmer' Bulletin 1631,
issued by the United States Department of Agriculture in
The principal items entering
broomcorn production are man
tractor work, seed, threshing an
equipment and use of land.
into the cost of
labor, horse and
d baling, use of
In the standard broomcorn district of east-central
, based on the usual field practice, wi
pounds of brush per acre, farmers pi
broomcorn with about 42 hours of m
ours of horse work, and 2 hours 4
These requirements amount to 140
bor, 59 hours of horse work, and 8
th a yield
work per ton and are for farms where trac-
used for plowing and
In the Lindsay district of south-central Oklahoma,
yield is sli
s not the
lightly less than
per acre amoul
work to about I
n, ae aea rn n
in Illinois, and
to use tractor
its to about 48
87 hours for a
a 4*n Kohaa i4
average yields obtained
In Dade County where b]
or muck land after potatoes
vested, sufficient fertilizer r
the crop. The rent- of this 1
acre. Production costs incluc
ciation, seed, and rent are
The yield on 100 acres pi
roomcorn is planted on marl
Ior tomatoes have been har-
the soil to support
ges five dollars an
ately $15 an acre.
1940 was 20 tons
a market value
Except when prices are high, broomcorn is rarely more
profitable than other crops.
possess considerable experience
that will command advantageous
since buyers are seldom found
production centers, it is difficu
ocal outlet for the crops, to find
the grower must
uce a quality of
outside of ex-
it, unless there
a suitable mar-
ket when broomcorn
FLORIDA PRODUCTION AND MARKETS
Although broomcorn can
every county in Florida, it
sively. The United States C0
that the State produced 98 1
report for 1899, recorded t
from 34 acres.
produced in practically
Snot been grown exten-
s Report of 1889 showed
on 171 acres and, in the
two tons were produced
No additional records were published until 1937 when
the Florida Agricultural Statistical report showed 8 tons
produced on 300 acres in Dade County. According to the
p -. --_ 4 A F ~ ll __L--- aa r. .. it 1~ ..2J.J fl..a
(b ru . .. .. .. . . . .
sorghi) is the most common fungus disease affecting
broomcorn. This develops masses of blackish spores
where the seed should have developed, and retards
growth of the brush. If the brush is damp when threshed,
the spores are smeared along the fibers, badly discolor-
Although all varieties of broomcorn are susceptible to
smut, control is not difficult if precautions are taken be-
fore planting. While sacked, the seed may be soaked in
a solution containing one pint of formaldehyde and 80
gallons of water. After immersion for one hour the seeds
are removed and spread out to dry. Another method con-
sists of sprinkling the formaldehyde solution on the seeds
which are stirred during the process. The seeds are
covered with canvas for 12 hours and then dried.
A mercury-compound dust known as ceresan affords
complete control for covered kernel smut. This dust
should be applied at the rate of three ounces per bushel
of seed, by mixing thoroughly in a regular dust-treating
up than those of the covered kernel type. The method
of treatment for control is the same for both.
Sorghum rust (Puccinia purpuro), and leaf spot dis-
eases, marked by reddish discolorations on the leaves and
caused by the bacteria, Bacterium andropogoi, 'B. hold-
cola, and B. holci, also attack broomcorn but are not par-
ticularly destructive. No means of control is at present
Insect PIta Broomcorn generally suffers from attack
by the same insects common to Indian corn and grain
sorghums. In Florida, cutworms are the worst offenders
and often make replanting necessary. Other worms and
plant lice also attack the crop but the extent of their in-
jury is not serious. Information on insect pests is avail-
able at the State Experiment Station or at the Bureau of
Entomology, United States Department of Agriculture,
Washington, D. C. A portion of the plant showing the
injury together with specimens of the insects causing
request for such in-
* . .
BROOMCORN: Acreage, production, and average season
price per ton received by farmers in the United States.
*.. .. .. .
From 1919 to 1924, November 15 prices; 1925 to 1987,
Acrease. yield, production and season average price per ton received by fa:
tatctes,' e re e ana manual 1 00 an 1.00 :
s3wn r~esie ziiu KIIIDURI 1300 moa roo :
State Acreage Harvested Yield Per Acre Production PriMe E
AVergo 1980 1987 Average 1986 1987 Average 1936 1987 1938
1928-82 19283-32 1928-32
1000 1000 1000 Short Short Short
Acres Ace. Acres Pounds Pounds Pounds Tons Tons Tons Dollars
S . .
* .* .*.*
844 342 313.4 221.3
tLeass than 100 tons.