Some really dumb questions about open pollinated corn... : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'd like to plant some open pollinated field corn and sweet corn next year. I also want to plant my favorite hybrid sweet corn for back up. Right across the road from me will be about 80 acres of hybrid field corn (neighbor's). Just for kicks, I'd like to plant a couple small patches of milo and broom corn, too. I have three acres in one patch (#1)- woods on N, E, W; old barn lot to south - soy beans in it this year. Another patch has two acres (#2), woods to N, large grass waterway to E, house and yard to W and neighbors 80 acres S across the road - sunflowers and sweet corn this year. The third patch is seven acres (#3); woods on E, N and part of W; grass water way the rest of W and neighbors field across the road - soy beans this year. The three and seven acre patches are long and narrow, with the narrow ends toward the road. Pop also has nine acres on the next road (#4) - pasture to the E and W, woods to the S and neighbor's field across the road N (fence row trees in between). I'll be using the corn as an argument towards cattle (and Unc's mule!)

Now for the questions!! How far apart should I keep the differnt varieties to prevent cross pollination so that I may save my own seed on the open pollinated varieties? I want to plant a small hay field also, so it could be put in as a barrier somewhere - would that help? Will the milo and broom corn cross pollinate with the others? Or with Indian corn?

You know, I pulled out my old crops book from when I was working on my ag degree in late 70's/early 80's, just to see if I could answer this question without help - Not ONE word in it about open pollinated crops. My, oh my.... Seem to recall that that's about when land prices shot through the roof and then a few years later, farmers started going under.

I've finally convinced Pop that we aren't going to make any real money off of this place out here, so the least we can do is enjoy it. He's been having a blast lately bringing his birder pals out from town to see "his" flocks of goldfinches and doves in the sunflower patch. He's also hauled bags and bags of tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn into folks in town - with a big grin on his face as he leaves. "Tis surely more blessed to give, than recieve.

-- Polly (, September 13, 2000


According to the book Seed to Seed by Susan Ashworth of Seed Savers Exchange:

All corn varieties are wind pollinated and will readily cross with each other. They maintain that to ensure purity of the seed, varieties should be located 2 miles apart. One suggestion they offer for home gardeners is to "time isolate" so that the tassels of one variety has finished shedding pollen before the silks of another variety has emerged.

-- Marci (, September 13, 2000.

Milo and broomcorn won't be a problem. They may look somewhat like corn, but won't cross pollinate.

It's not just the seed you have to worry about with corn though. Since it's the seed you eat, accidental hybrids will not have the right kernels. This is a real problem with super sweet corn. If it cross pollinates, it's pretty well ruined.

Knowing the time from planting to tassel and staggering then accordingly is the best way to avoid cross pollination.


-- paul (, September 13, 2000.

Unless you want to plant a variety that will be flowering a a different time than all your neighbor's ( and with so many planting corn, that may be a real challenge), you may have to forget about growing your own corn seed. If you are really gung ho and set on it though, you could try erecting a large cage around the plants, covered with very fine mesh, too fine for pollen to go through, such as muslin. The seed saver's exchange would be able to tell you how fine the cloth would have to be. you might just be better off to buy the heirloom seed, or trade for it with someone who can grow it out pure. Not only would cross pollinated seed not come true, but with all the genetically engineered corn and it's terminator(?) seed, it may not even germinate if it crosses with your neighbor's corn.

-- Rebekah (, September 14, 2000.

In commercial seed production, we keep unique hybrids 660 feet apart. That gives us about 98% genetic purity.

-- John Mesko (, April 27, 2001.

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