FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Growing seed corn is a different process
than growing conventional corn.
From the time the seed is planted until it is bagged,
detailed procedures are followed to get seeds ready for farmers to plant in the
spring. The seeds must be able to resist drought and other adverse conditions in
order for farmers to succeed.
Dairyland Seed knows all about seed crops. It is based in
Wisconsin and grows and sells seed crops in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“This time of year, we are harvesting corn seed,” said Gary
Freiburger, regional sales manager at Dairyland. “Hopefully, corn will be done
by the end of September.”
Freiburger said corn in the spring is planted at different
stages to ensure there is enough pollen at the time the female part of the
plant, the ear, is receptive.
“Once that happens, they detassel the female plants because
they don’t want the female plants to pollinate themselves,” he said. “So they
will cut the tassel out or burn it out, depending on which system you use. You
have someone walk in the field and inspect it and pull off what is
Growing seed corn takes a lot of manpower. Fields are
inspected at least once a week to check for potential problems.
In contrast, commercial farmers inspect fields less often.
They normally focus on scouting fields at the beginning of the season to make
sure crops are growing, Freiburger said.
Seed corn is sensitive to certain diseases, so while in the
field seed corn growers must apply more fungicides than a commercial grower, he
When it comes time to harvest, only the ear is picked.
“With commercial, you’d run a combine through it, shell it
off and just have the kernels that you take to the elevators to dry,” Freiburger
explained. “With seed production, you actually take a sweet corn harvester and
pull off ears and the fodder around the ear, so you do very little damage to
After picking the corn, it is taken to a husking area in a
production facility. The corn is inspected by at least a dozen people.
Cobs that look damaged or strange are pulled and thrown out.
The remaining corn goes on to be dried.
“It’s a double-pass system where they force the heat and air
one way and turn around and force the heat and air the other way — that way it
is uniformly dry,” Freiburger said. “After that, they shell it and take it up
into the tower to condition it. There are a lot of steps.”
Once it is dried, it goes to the sheller, and seeds are
separated based on size. From there, it is treated with fungicides and
pesticides and moves on to packaging.
The soybean side of the seed business focuses heavily on
careful inspection of fields.
“There are some leaf-eating insects in the very early stages
of beans. We try to kill those because they affect seed quality,” Freiburger
said. “We try to protect seed quality all the way through its life.”
Volunteer corn and certain weeds cannot be in a field full
of soybean seed crops. State and business inspectors make sure the crop is grown
under the right conditions.
Freiburger said that a commercial bean grower doesn’t spray
as often, remove as many weeds or worry about volunteer corn as much as a seed
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