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Growing Corn on our Michigan Homestead

Scott Hucker

Our focus is on historical open pollinated varieties that were selected for the northern edge of the corn belt.  Here is major corn growing regions of the US per the USDA:

USDA Corn Belt in the US

Corn does grow in Michigan, but we're not famous for it.  To grow multiple varieties on our small farm, we will use length of maturity to manage multiple varieties as well as different fields on our farm.  Unfortunately, some with similar maturities will have to take turns from year to year.

Days until maturity are certainly just a guideline.  The real driver of plant (and insect life) is Growing Degree Days (GDD).  It will take me a few years to fine tune the listed 'maturity' of each type relative to the other, but for the moment, here they (have, do and want to grow) are:

Days  Named Variety

 65     Alberta Clipper Corn

         Alberta Clipper Corn seeds


 70     Gaspe' Flint Corn Gaspe Flint Corn seeds


75     New York Red Flint Corn 

New York Red Flint Corn seeds


75     VK RX 2300 Flint Corn

VK RX 2300 2300 Flint Corn seeds


75     New York Bloody Butcher Flint Corn


85    King Phillip Flint Corn 

King Phillip Flint Corn seeds


 87     Minnesota 13 Corn

          Minnesota 13 Corn



89     Coburn's Early Red Flint Corn 


95    Polar Dent Corn


97      Floriani Red Flint Corn

         Floriani Red Flint Corn seeds


100    Silver King Dent Corn

Silver King Dent Corn seeds



100    New York Red Robin Dent Corn


New York Red Robin Dent Corn seeds



100    Black Cherry Parching Corn


105    Amish Dent Corn

Amish Dent Corn seeds



105    Reid Yellow Dent Corn

Reid Yellow Dent Corn seeds 



105    Zdrowie Flint Corn

Zdrowie Flint Corn seeds


105    New York Amish Mushroom Popcorn


110    1776 Dent Corn 

1776 Dent Corn seeds


115    Ohio Blue Dent Corn

 Ohio Blue Dent Corn seeds


115    Buck Lantz Dent Corn

Buck Lantz Dent Corn seeds


120    Johnny Dewlen Blue Dent Corn

Johnny Dewlen Blue Dent Corn seeds


120   Lancaster Sure Crop



120    Homestead Chicken Feed Dent Corn


126    Cocke's Prolific Dent Corn

Cocke's Prolific Dent Corn seeds



These need maturities assigned.  Aren't they gorgeous!

xxx    White Landrace Corn



xxx    Winnebago White Flour Corn


xxx    Northwestern Dent Corn




xxx    Rhode Island Red and White Flint Corn




Integrated Pest Management of University of Missouri had an interesting 3 part series on corn pollination:

     The Male Role      The Female Role       Boy Meets Girl

It goes into the details of the mechanics, methods and perils reproduction without any birds or bees. Corn being monoecious has two unique traits among the grains: each plant has both male & female parts and they physically separated.  As a result, corn depends on wind to move its pollen.   Our honeybees can be seen gathering pollen from the tassels, but without a nectar treat on the female flower, they never land on the silks.

We do not grow a large enough plot size to be able to estimate yields on a commercial scale.  I like this graph from Purdue University on corn yield per acre since 1866:  


Historical Corn Yield from Purdue University (2020)

I like to think of the golden age of open pollinated corn breeding ended by 1940.  According to this article on corn breeding hybrids took on an increasing role.  Then came cheap chemicals, oil, irrigation and GMO...

So, it appears that one could expect 25 bushels per acre.  A bushel of shelled corn weighs 56 pounds, so, about 1400 pounds of shelled corn per acre, or 30 pounds for a 30 ft by 30 ft plot.  In my progression of the corn harvest, I calculate what I was harvesting.  Much to my surprise (& joy),  I've been able to beat these numbers.

Here is an interesting article on making tortillas including the nixtamalization process.

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