THE PLANTING AND CULTURE OF BIG JOE FIELD CORN
Roy A. Bair, Agronomist
Everglades Experiment Station T
"Big Joe" is an open pollinated variety of field corn composite by
mixing the Mayorbela variety from Puerto Rico with white and yellow Tuxpan and
Cuban yellow Flint. It is a muck corn and has not proven successful on the
sandy soils of South Florida. With proper fertilization on muck or peat soils
this variety has yielded from 50 to 113 bushels per acre.
Preliminary tests have shown that treatments with fungicides have not
appreciably increased the stand when new seed is used and when the soil is warm.
However, when seed is as much as a year old or when the soil is cold,' Arasan or
Spergon, used according to the directions of the manufacturers, may result in
10 to 15 percent better stand than with treated seed.
Several experienced farmers in the Everglades believe the seedlings
are protected saoewhat from birds by first treating three gallons of seed with
one tablespoon of Creosote (commercially known as Crow Repellent) and then by
drying the seed out by stirring in one cup of lead arsenate.
One grower has used a small amount of benzene hexachloride in place
of lead arsenate, for the purpose of controlling wireworms in the soil.
Tests at the Everglades Experiment Station,involving various rates of
planting and different spacings between the rows, have shown a slight advantage
in yield when two kernels per hill are planted at 18-inch intervals in the row,
with rows spaced 36 inches apart. Yields almost as great may be obtained simply
by using the Coles Planter commonly used with other crops in the Everglades to
drop one seed every 10 to 12 inches in the row. The muck and peat soils are
sufficiently high in nitrogen content that the rows can be much closer than in
the so-called corn belt where the standard distance is 40 inches. Several
growers have grown corn successfully in the Everglades with rows spaced 28 to
30 inches apart.
When the soil is exceptionally dry, certain growers have planted
corn in a deep furrow. Subsequently, when the first seedlings emerge, the
soil is cultivated to throw an additional three or four inches over the germ-
inating corn. This serves to level the field at the same time as controlling
germinating weed seed. This practice has an additional advantage in that the
germinating corn seeds are too deep to be pulled up by blackbirds.
As the young plants emerge, there is a period of from three to five
days when it is often necessary to guard the plants from blackbirds with a
rifle or shotgun. Large flocks of birds will destroy the field in a few hours'
time. Guarding against the birds is-sometimes a good precaution to take even
though the seed has been treated as outlined above.
Experiments conducted over several seasons have indicated the largest
responses of field corn are obtained by potash and copper. In the Everglades
the usual fertilizer consists of 300 or 400 pounds of 0-8-24 or of 0-6-18 plus,
per acre, 50 pounds copper sulfate, 10 to 15 pounds zinc sulfate and an amount
of manganese sulfate varying front 15 to 50 pounds depending on the reaction of
the soil. Soils of a high pH tend to tie up manganese, and in such situations
greater amounts are required to assure a supply for the plant.
Certain locations have been found in the Everglades where zinc or
manganese, or both, were not available when supplied in the fertilizer. In
such cases the plants can be fed by the application of a spray containing 4
pounds manganese sulfate and 2 pounds of zinc sulfate per acre.
As soon as the plants are 4 to 6 inches in height, the field should
be cultivated, throwing the soil strongly from the middles of the row to a high
ridge almost, but not quite, covering the plants. This provides loose, moist
soil around the young stalks and promotes the early formation of brace roots.
This type of cultivation, as contrasted with flat cultivation, will sometimes
double the yield of corn. In subsequent cultivations, at least one or two in
number, the soil should be ridged around the plants as much as possible.
Insect Pest Control
Although the Big Joe variety when properly cultivated and well fert-
ilized will grow sufficiently fast to overcome severe budworm attacks, the
grower may prefer to treat young plants with a lead arsenate or DDT spray.
These are to be used in accordance with the instructions issued by the manu-
facturer. The manganese and zinc nutritional sprays mentioned above can be
combined successfully with the spray for budworm control,
Earworms are ordinarily of no serious consequence to the Big Joe
variety. Most of the husks are thick and long with the result that the worm
rarely penetrates beyond the tip of the ear.
Several types of mechanical pickers are now being used successfully
in the Everglades. These are without exception single row pickers. The two
row pickers are too heavy for the soft .oils of the Everglades and have the
additional disadvantage requiring 40-inch rows -- a waste of space in this area
where higher production can be obtained with rows spaced much closer.
Certain commercial concerns produce units which pick the corn but
lack husking rolls, Such units are approximately 1000 pounds lighter than the
complete husker-picker. After a suitable period in the crib, such unhusked
corn can be run through a hammermill to produce ground snapped corn which con-
tains husk and cob as well as the kernels.
In the humid climate of South Florida where relative humidity may run
at 100 percent until nearly noon and where frequent rains occur during the after-
noon, it is often necessary to harvest corn with a moisture content of from 25
to 35 percent. Under such conditions an artificial drier or dehydration unit is
absolutely necessary to insure against spoilage.
Seed Selection and Storage
Big Joe has hybrid vigor but is not a true hybrid. It is not necessary
to obtain new seed each year, if certain precautions are followed faithfully in
1. Do not select seed, or attempt to pick out ears of especially
desirable size or color. Such close selection will result in the loss of the
hybrid vigor of the Big Joe variety. Use "field run" corn for seed, just as it
canes from the field, without any selection whatever!
2. Do not shell corn intended for seed until the moisture content
is 12 percent or less. Either the ears or shelled seed should be stored in a
dry place, as corn will re-absorb moisture during a period of wet or humid
weather. Electric refrigeration will preserve seed the longest by insuring
both low temperature and dry air. Weevils, if present, will not cause damage
or multiply at temperatures slightly above freezing.