Corn School: Seed corn success is all in the details

PRIDE Seeds field production manager Mike Bechard

A bag of seed corn checks in at 80,000 kernels and typically weighs between 35 and 65 pounds. One bag will plant roughly 2.5 acres.

But the job of producing that seed is very different than growing a commercial corn crop. On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Corn School, we kick off a three-part series on the critical points of seed production season — from planting, to pollination, and harvest.

To kick off the series, host Bernard Tobin joins PRIDE Seeds field production manager Mike Bechard in a field of newly-emerged seed corn near Chatham, Ont.

With its productive soils, Bechard says the southwestern corner of Ontario is a great fit for seed production. Essex and Kent counties are often referred to as the province’s banana belt, featuring a micro climate nestled in between Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and Lake St. Claire. With a long growing season, the region allows for the seed to be planted in late May and early June, and harvested prior to first frost. (Story continues after the video.)

The region also features more diverse crops and rotations, including vegetables, to meet the isolation needs of seed corn. Bechard says seed corn must be planted a minimum of 200 metres from a commercial corn crop to ensure no foreign pollen enters the field and contaminates the seed crop.

Bechard also looks at the intricacies of planting seed corn — across the field, four rows of female inbreds are planted followed by one male row. He adds that the male row is actually planted twice, usually seven to 10 days apart, to extend the pollen window and ensure that late-emerging female silks are effectively pollinated.

In the video, Bechard stresses the importance of strong grower relationships and how seed companies like PRIDE work with growers to manage isolation requirements and planting protocols — both keys to seed corn quality assurance.

Stay tuned for part two of the series in 60 days when Tobin and Bechard return to the field for corn pollination and detasseling.

Tap here for more Corn School videos.

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