March Newsletter: Specialty Corns

Maximizing Yield & Quality in Growing Corn Specialties

One of the main factors in improving yield and quality is breeding and the application of appropriate agronomic technologies. Yield improvement is done primarily through continuous breeding and selection. Agronomic improvements are usually part of the hybrid selection index. Quality traits could be primarily single gene genetics or multigene quantitative traits. Trait breeding depends on the mode of inheritance of the trait. Yield gains due to genetic improvements have been reported as 1 to 1.5 % per year over the last 4 decades.

Another important factor in yield expression is the use of appropriate agronomic practices to maximize yield.

More than half of the yield gains in corn have been accomplished by the use of new and improved agronomic practices such as soil management, appropriate fertilizer and herbicide application, seed treatments, plant population, irrigation management, and use of fertilizers.

GEI 411C high anthocyanin hybrid corn

Commercial agriculture has perfected this system and is looking at creation of data banks based on farm results to offer new services to improve yields. All this comes with a cost to the farmer and a tightening of profit margins. The question is what is too much and what is enough. The rules of production economics are that investments and practices to produce high value crops are different than the production of a commodity crop, especially when the grain commodity prices are low.

We are finding out that there are many specialty corn producers that are using all the tools available, including seed treatments and fungicides, to maximize the yields of their specialties.

Does it make any sense on maximizing yield on a field of blue corn (GEI 411C) or a field of high carotene corn (GEI 2318), or hard endosperm (GEI 9717)? For the grain processor, it does make sense. If a farmer is growing a specialty corn hybrid on contract for an exporter or processor, it makes sense to maximize yield and quality to insure a better economic outcome.

GEI 2318 high carotene corn hybrid

Again, does it make sense to maximize yield and quality for grain production of waxy (GEI 9700 wx), high lysine corn (GEI 101 lys, GEI 9887 lys) for feeding pigs or growing GEI 2318 for poultry for on farm use in livestock growing? Yes, it does make sense. Formulation of rations with nutritionally enhanced grains produced at the farm for feeding livestock has the potential of improving profits and a better utilization of farm resources.


Organic Production of Specialty Corns

There is production of specialty corns under organic management conditions. Production, for the most part, is under contract for domestic use or export. Organic farmers are continuously looking for ways to improve their yield results. Looking from the outside, weed control and fertility management seem to be the major problems to maximizing yields. Rotation and the use of cover crops have improved weed control and contributed to yield improvements. Large organic farmers have maximized the use of machinery to improve soil tilth and to manage weed control and the use of organic fertilizers and manures.

High yields nearing 200 bushels/acre on corn are not uncommon in organic farming now days. Production of specialty corns under organic management has been going on for many years. GEI is projecting a growth in organic production of grain of GEI 411C, our high anthocyanin corn, GEI 2318, and GEI 9717 for the food industry in the years to come. New products will be added as breeding is completed to cover other nutritional aspects or special uses in the food or feed industry.

Silage Corn & Corn for Grazing

One of the aspects that we have not discussed in our newsletter is the use of corn specialty products for silage and for grazing. The use of corn for silage is a common practice in the dairy industry.  Corn hybrids for silage are selected on the basis of the entire plant yield as silage and the nutritional value of the different chemical components of the ensiled product. Yield of milk per acre is calculated using a formula that takes into consideration the nutritional content of the silage and the yield of dry matter per acre of the hybrid. Grain yield or starch content of the silage is associated with milk production.

Some of the specialty hybrids such as our high lysine corn hybrids RM 110 GEI 101 lysand RM 105 GEI 9887 lys and RM114 GEI 114 lys (new for 2018) make good products for milk production because of the high digestibility of the starch associated with the soft texture and low level of prolamine content of the endosperm. The floury corns, such as Inka Maiz GEI 6287 HSD, have also high starch digestibility and are becoming specialty types among silage hybrids.

Another trend in beef production that’s calling attention in the state is the production of grass fed beef. Meat from grass fed beef is known for being more tender, juicy and more flavorful than corn fed beef.  It commands a good price in the supermarket and makes it a specialty product for restaurants. GEI is planning on cooperating with a farmer/rancher in a project to use our corn for grazing. The objective is to use whole plant corn, at or before flowering, to graze (immature corn pictured above). The nutritional impact of this plan is being evaluated. The use of sorghum x sudan grass would also be introduced at a later date to compare with the economy of using corn. Corn for grazing has been utilized extensively in New Zealand. GEI has plans for screening hybrids of different maturities and genetic makeups this summer to collect data on flowering and whole plant yield.

CRP Food Plots

Sample of a CRP food plot, from USDA NCRS

The government conservation reserve (CRP) program in Iowa has different programs for landowners wanting to enroll. Currently there are 1.6 million acres enrolled and 52,800 farms participating in this program. One of the interesting aspects of the CRP program is the planting of food plots for wildlife.  Corn food plots are part of this program. Farmers participating in the establishment of food plots can buy non-GMO hybrid seed corn at reduced prices from Genetic Enterprises International.
This year we are offering treated seed of two hybrids for this program:

GEI 9418: This RM 114 hybrid is a full season hybrid. It has a very good tolerance to disease and  also has a good tolerance to heat. The stalks and roots are strong and will withstand Iowa weather growing conditions. This hybrid can stay in the field well past harvest time without breaking down. One of the interesting aspects of it is the elevated protein and oil content (11.0-11.5 % protein, 5.0- 5.5 % oil) that would make a good food product for wildlife.
Price $105 per 80K bag of treated seed

GEI 9700: RM 110 treated seed
This is a medium maturity hybrid with a good yield record. Plants are medium to tall with excellent standability. This hybrid flowers early and matures by mid September. This hybrid can stay in the field until the end of October without deteriorating. The ears on this hybrid are large with medium texture grain. The kernels have a good content of starch and will be a good energy source for wildlife feed.
Price $105 per 80K bag of treated seed

Recipe: Cornmeal Pizza with Pink Beans

In reviewing recipes to include in our monthly newsletter, I always test the recipe results.  I was skeptical about using beans on pizza.  I can attest to the fact that this cornmeal based pizza was delicious.  We used coarse ground flour of our high carotene hybrid (GEI 2318).  Speaking of ground flour, it was always frustrating of not being able to play around with the grain of our hybrids until we bought a Nutrimill for milling our grain (pictured below).  This opened a whole new source of flours and cornmeals to test recipes.

For people without a home mill, sources for some of our milled grain would be:
Whole Grain Milling in Welcome, MN can provide you with milled products from our high lysine corn hybrid (GEI 101 lys).

Early Morning Harvest in Panora, IA can provide you with milled products from our high carotene corn hybrid (GEI 2318).

When you get a chance, try out this recipe. It’s fun to make and really good to eat.

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 cups cold water
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, slice thin
1 small green pepper, sliced into strips, ¼ inch wide
4 medium mushrooms, sliced thin
¾ teaspoon each, dried basil and oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup drained pink, pinto or red beans
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a small bowl, mix the cornmeal with 2/3 cup of cold water; in a small saucepan, bring the other 2/3 cup of water to a boil.  Gradually add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water, whisking constantly with a fork until it is thick.  Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese.  With wet hands, pat the cornmeal mixture evenly onto a 12” lightly greased pizza pan or baking sheet.

Bake the cornmeal crust, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until it is just golden.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the olive oil over moderate heat for 1 minute; add the onion, garlic, and green pepper, and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, basil, oregano and black pepper, and cook covered, for 5 minutes.  Stir in the beans and set aside.

After removing the crust from the oven, reduce the temperature to 350°F.  Sprinkle half the mozzarella cheese and half the remaining Parmesan cheese over the crust.  Spoon the bean mixture on top, pour the tomato sauce evenly over it, and scatter the rest of the cheeses on top.

Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted.  Cut into wedges.  Serves 4.

Source:  Reader’s Digest Great Recipes for Good Health