When the white man came to this country he found the Indians using corn;
for this reason, in addition to its name _maize_, it is called _Indian
corn_. Before that time the civilized world did not know that there was
such a crop. The increase in the yield and the extension of the acres
planted in this strictly American crop have kept pace with the rapid
and wonderful growth of our country. Corn is king of the cereals and the
most important crop of American agriculture. It grows in almost every
section of America. There is hardly any limit to the uses to which its
grain and its stalks are now put. Animals of many kinds are fed on
rations into which it enters. Its grains in some form furnish food to
more people than does any other crop except possibly rice. Its stalk and
its cob are manufactured into many different and useful articles.
A soil rich in either decaying animal or vegetable matter, loose, warm,
and moist but not wet, will produce a better crop of corn than any
other. Corn soil should always be well tilled and cultivated.
The proper time to begin the cultivation of corn is before it is
planted. Plow well. A shallow, worn-out soil should not be used for
corn, but for cowpeas or rye. After thorough plowing, the harrow--either
the disk or spring-tooth--should be used to destroy all clods and leave
the surface mellow and fine. The best results will be obtained by
turning under a clover sod that has been manured from the savings of the
When manure is not available, commercial fertilizers will often prove
profitable on poor lands. Careful trials will best determine how much
fertilizer to an acre is necessary, and what kinds are to be used. A
little study and experimenting on the farmer's part will soon enable him
to find out both the kind and the amount of fertilizer that is best
suited to his land.
The seed for this crop should be selected according to the plan
suggested in Section XIX.
The most economical method of planting is by means of the horse planter,
which, according to its adjustment, plants regularly in hills or in
drills. A few days after planting, the cornfield should be harrowed with
a fine-tooth harrow to loosen the top soil and to kill the grass and the
weed seeds that are germinating at the surface. When the corn plants
are from a half inch to an inch high, the harrow may again be used. A
little work before the weeds sprout will save many days of labor during
the rest of the season, and increase the yield.
Corn is a crop that needs constant cultivation, and during the growing
season the soil should be stirred at least four times. This cultivation
is for three reasons:
1. To destroy weeds that would take plant food and water.
2. To provide a mulch of dry soil so as to prevent the evaporation of
moisture. The action of this mulch has already been explained.
3. Because "tillage is manure." Constant stirring of the soil allows the
air to circulate in it, provides a more effective mulch, and helps to
change unavailable plant food into the form that plants use.
Deep culture of corn is not advisable. The roots in their early stages
of growth are shallow feeders and spread widely only a few inches below
the surface. The cultivation that destroys or disturbs the roots injures
the plants and lessens the yield. We cultivate because of the three
reasons given above, and not to stir the soil about the roots or to
loosen it there.
In many parts of the country the cornstalks are left standing in the
fields or are burned. This is a great mistake, for the stalks are worth
a good deal for feeding horses, cattle, and sheep. These stalks may
always be saved by the use of the husker and shredder. Corn after being
matured and cut can be put in shocks and left thus until dry enough to
run through the husker and shredder. This machine separates the corn
from the stalk and husks it. At the same time it shreds tops, leaves,
and butts into a food that is both nutritious and palatable to stock.
For the amount that animals will eat, almost as much feeding value is
obtained from corn stover treated in this way as from timothy hay. The
practice of not using the stalks is wasteful and is fast being
abandoned. The only reason that so much good food is being left to decay
in the field is because so many people have not fully learned the
feeding value of the stover.
To show the effect of cultivation on the yield of corn, let the
pupils lay off five plats in some convenient field. Each plat need
consist of only two rows about twenty feet long. Treat each plat as
Plat 1. No cultivation: let weeds grow.
Plat 2. Mulch with straw.
Plat 3. Shallow cultivation: not deeper than two inches and at
least five times during the growing season.
Plat 4. Deep cultivation: at least four inches deep, so as to
injure and tear out some of the roots (this is a common method).
Plat 5. Root-pruning: ten inches from the stalk and six inches
deep, prune the roots with a long knife. Cultivate five times
during the season.
Observe plats during the summer, and at husking-time note results.