Selecting Seed Corn
If a farmer would raise good crops he must, as already stated, select
good seed. Many of the farmer's disappointments in the quantity and
quality of his crops--disappointments often thought to come from other
causes--are the result of planting poor seed. Seeds not fully ripened,
if they grow at all, produce imperfect plants. Good seed, therefore, is
the first thing necessary for a good crop. The seed of perfect plants
only should be saved.
By wise and persistent selection, made in the field before the crop is
fully matured, corn can be improved in size and made to mature earlier.
Gather ears only from the most productive plants and save only the
largest and best kernels.
You have no doubt seen the common American blackbirds that usually
migrate and feed in such large numbers. They all look alike in every
way. Now, has it ever occurred to you to ask why all blackbirds are
black? The blackbirds are black simply because their parents are black.
Now in the same way that the young blackbirds resemble their parents,
corn will resemble its parent stock. How many ears of corn do you find
on a stalk? One, two, sometimes three or four. You find two ears of corn
on a stalk because it is the nature of that particular stalk to produce
two ears. In the same way the nature of some stalks is to produce but
one ear, while it is the nature of others sometimes to produce two or
This resemblance of offspring to parent is known to scientists as
heredity, or as "like producing like."
Some Southern corn-breeders take advantage of this law to improve their
corn crop. If a stalk can be made to produce two ears of corn just as
large as the single ear that most stalks bear, we shall get twice as
much corn from a field in which the "two-eared" variety is planted. In
the North and West the best varieties of corn have been selected to make
but one ear to the stalk. It is generally believed that this is the best
practice for the shorter growing seasons of the colder states.
These facts ought to be very helpful to us next year when our fathers
are planting corn. We should get them to plant seed secured only from
stalks that produced the most corn, whether the stalk had two or more
ears or only one. If we follow this plan year by year, each acre of land
will be made to produce more kernels and hence a larger crop of corn,
and yet no more work will be required to raise the crop.
In addition to enlarging the yield of corn, you can, by proper selection
of the best and most productive plants in the field, grow a new variety
of seed corn. To do this you need only take the largest and best
kernels from stalks bearing two ears; plant these, and at the next
harvest again save the best kernels from stalks bearing the best ears.
If you keep up this practice with great care for several years, you will
get a vigorous, fruitful variety that will command a high price for
Boone County white corn on left, and original type, from which it
was developed by selection, on right]
Every school boy and girl can make this experiment at leisure. From
your own field get two ears of corn, one from a stalk bearing only
one ear and the other from a stalk bearing two well-grown ears.
Plant the grains from one ear in one plat, and the grains from the
other in a plat of equal size. Use for both the same soil and the
same fertilizer. Cultivate both plats in the same way. When the
crop is ready to harvest, husk the corn, count the ears, and weigh
the corn. Then write a short essay on your work and on the results
and get your teacher to correct the story for your home paper.
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