Planting Corn with Pitchfork and Crow

The second field trial of the season has been successfully installed at Pitchfork and Crow, an organic farm just outside of Lebanon, Oregon last Thursday! In the pictures below you will see us protecting the seedlings with row cover from these iconic crows, who love to take corn sprouts out of the ground while they are still sweet. Like the trial at Adaptive Seeds, we are using Cascade Ruby-Gold flint corn variety, which I have split into 4 treatments randomly across the field, as follows:

1. Control treatment

2. Seed Disinfection

3. Seed Inoculation

4. Seed Disinfection + Inoculation

The disinfection treatment involves hot-water treatment of the corn seed, while the inoculation treatment includes adding a cocktail of 8 bacteria that are known to protect corn against disease involving Fusarium. While it is generally not advised to hot-water-treat large-seeded crops, I have found a method that appears to work: 5 minutes immersion in 60 degree Celsius water, followed by a quick dunk in ice-water before drying them off. The conventional reason for disinfecting is to protect your plants from seedborne diseases. However, I am also doing it to understand how important these seedborne microbes are in forming healthy microflora early on in the plant’s development. Disinfected seeds might be more susceptible to soilborne pathogens, or make it easier for beneficial microbes to colonize, such as the microbial cocktail that I have added. We always measure the effects of the seed treatments in the lab on the physiology of the germinating seedlings, in addition to sowing it into the field, to get a better idea about what may be going on.

Look forward to more updates, especially when the third and final field experiment is installed in the OSU experimental field, with seeds from both Pithfork and Crow and Adaptive Seeds, together in the same field.

One comment on “Planting Corn with Pitchfork and Crow

  1. How important is it to dry them off? Is that part of the disinfection, or could you just sow them wet?

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