Corn lodging for Noobies

Sweet Tatorman's picture

No, that is not where you stay while tending your corn patch. Lodging is an agricultural term for a grain crop falling over or being blown over by wind. Corn is especially susceptible as it is tall and thus subject to much wind loading. If you grow corn, at some point you will go out and discover something like the photo below. Most typically there is not breakage of the stalk, the plant has just partially uprooted and laid down. Your first impulse likely will be to intervene in some way. Don't do it. In most cases doing nothing is best. Corn plants have an amazing ability to right themselves. The photo below was taken a couple of mornings ago. I will follow up in a week or so with another photo and you can see how it works. The stalks will have considerable curvature but the upper portion of the plant will have returned to vertical.

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I love that the advice is 'do nothing'. That is my kind of gardening, and now I am well prepared for this eventuality. Question - is the advice the same if the corn stalks are all the way grown with corn ears on?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

In general, the more advanced the state of development the less able the plant is to right itself. With a fully developed ear lying on the ground it probably will stay there which will subject the ear to possible rot from soil contact or spoilage from ground dwelling insects and rodents. In this case getting the ear off the ground would be helpful by means of a short forked stick or similar.

alice's picture

Good to know they can right themselves. Impressive skins corn ladies =D

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Taken today.

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Sweet Tatorman's picture

Here is a closeup of stalk curvature for righting plant. Note both in foreground and background.

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I love that it has a name - corn lodging. Will be adding that to the lexicon. That corn has an impressive compulsion for verticality..

So I remembered this discussion on corn lodging earlier this year, and a few weeks ago when a hailstorm knocked over a good half of my knee-high corn crop, I left it alone, and sure enough, it has righted itself. It's like one of Fukuoka's 'Do nothing farming' techniques. Love it!

That is so interesting that corn will right itself. I would have definitely tried to set them back up myself.

Papa told me that corn should be hilled to prevent lodging. Apparently my granddaddy hoed his corn every morning, building up a hill around the roots as he weeded. For a different approach, I think it was Will Bonsall in his Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening books who talked about reducing lodging by inter planting vines (beans or Apios Americana) with his corn, sunflowers, or sunchokes. I planted beans in my tiny corn patch and the weight of the vines has bent one of the stalks over midway up the stalk Probably I didn’t let the corn get big enough before planting.

My grandfather and father always told me to plant corn in groups of 3 plants to prevent lodging. Instead of planting the corn in a row so that the plants are six inches apart as most of the seed packets recommend, they would plant 3 seeds together every 18 inches instead. I've always followed this advice and have never had a problem with lodging. It takes a very strong wind to bend three corn stalks that are supporting each other.

My okra lodged yesterday. It was 8 feet tall. Next time I’ll put posts and string all around my tall plants.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I have had only a very limited amount of okra lodging over the years. I suspect that soil type may have much to do with it. When it does occur it is typically late in the season where I am pretty much done with all things okra. Earlier I will have been fastidious about cutting off over mature pods to maintain productivity but towards the end of the season I just let them go. A big wad of mature pods are quite heavy so lodging can result but for me more typically the plant is flexible enough to just bend over though sometimes there will be breakage mid stalk. Photo below of my okra after I am no longer picking.

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You must have amazing soil. I think you probably have limestone bedrock? I’m reading the Intelligent Gardener, and the author, Steve Solomon, feels that calcium is the most important mineral when you are remineralizing your soil. His main thesis is about how you can’t grow nutrient dense food without the right minerals in the soil, and it got me to thinking about using soil fertility as a main consideration for relocating to be sustainable if/when mineral fertilizers can’t be easily shipped. I’m going to have to learn about how to read soil maps.

Why have you stopped picking your okra? To save seed?

I have a huge snakeroot that bees and wasp love. It lodged today in the rain from the remnants of Hurricane Sally. When I went to see, the flowers were still wet but bees were already on it.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

You are correct that the bedrock is limestone but depth below the clastics is unknown but more than a few feet. On a geologic timescale the soil here is derived from a mix of limestones, sandstones, and a bit of shale in the mix. Calcium is certainly not the limiting factor here. UGA soil test lab reports run in the 2000 to 3000 lbs per acre range depending upon where I took the sample. Those lbs/acre figures are the amount of calcium in the top 6" of soil column and are about an order of magnitude higher than required for most crops.
>Why have you stopped picking your okra?<
I had already put up 40 pints of okra pickles which is more than typical and the freezer is full. Productivity generally drops off in September anyway, I just quit before it did. While I do save seed in some years, I currently have a large supply on hand so I likely will not this year. Okra seed has long viability, at least 10 years under good storage conditions.

I put a *lot* of calcium in my soil both here in central PA and in South Carolina.

I used eggshells. We eat a lot of eggs. Save all the eggshells (however you used the eggs, boiled in shell or otherwise) in a container in your freezer. Crunch up the eggshells as you put them in the container into little bits. If your container will stand up to this, use a pestle to further break up the eggshells.

When the container is full, go outside and sprinkle them thinly all over. Larger pieces of eggshells take a few days to vanish; small bits and dust disappear almost immediately. A good rain after sprinkling helps them vanish quicker.

Do this for years and you'll see a change. I do this summer and winter alike. The season doesn't seem to matter and if you compost less in January, you can still save and sprinkle crushed eggshells.

I don't know about other enhancing other minerals but you can take care of your calicum shortages over time.

Teresa, do you wash the shells that have raw egg on them?

I just crunch them up in my hands (raw or peeled off boiled eggs) and dump them in the container.
The smaller the bits, the more eggshells can fit inside the freezer container.

Frozen eggshells shatter nicely, so sometimes, if they've been recalcitrant, I use a pestle or the bottom of a wooden spoon to further crush them in the container.

Tinier eggshell bits disperse better.

I've never washed or sanitized the raw eggshells and I use eggs from the grocery store. I've never seen a problem.

That makes it a lot easier.

Here is something else to do with okra - grind the seeds to flour.
They also have okra oil. I got some Of both for my son who is getting into bread baking. He baked a loaf and said it looked like bread but smelled like okra and tasted like okra. lol

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Some years ago as an experiment I shelled out the seeds of pods that were several weeks past fresh use. Seeds were full size but still white and not yet hard. Cooked as a stand alone side dish, I found them acceptable though a bit bitter. They were not too bitter for my tastes but I think some would find them so. It is a fair amount of effort to extract enough seed for a serving. There are reports of mature seeds having anti-nutritional properties but I have no insight into the actual significance of that.

That is a provoking paper to also require Payment to read. I suppose letting I digest in a sour dough culture might convert the anti nutrients.