May Newsletter: Notes From the Nursery

Season, Planting, & Field Updates

This year we finished planting our nursery, yield test and expo on May 7th.  Other farmers in the area had planted their corn about two weeks earlier.  It took awhile for their seed to sprout because the soil was a little bit cool.  Because we plant inbred seed for our nursery work, we like to wait until the weather is a little more settled.

It took a week after planting to accumulate 125 heat units so that we could hand plant the “delay” rows so that our hybrid crosses would match up in July.  The rains came again after we planted so we were happy to have the window of opportunity to plant.







Projects in Our Nursery 

Besides our routine non-GMO inbred line development, we are finishing up a few projects that we have been working on for a few years.  We are in the final stages of development of an early RM 95 and a late RM 115 hard endosperm hybrids for the food industry.  These hybrids are in wide area testing.

We will have these hybrids in the GEI hybrid display this summer for the field day scheduled for September 7th. We are also in the final stages of conversion of inbreds to waxy and high lysine for the food and feed industry.  We are advancing work on the development of a new blue corn with white endosperm background and a new high amylose 7 hybrid for special uses and applications in the food industry and in commercial nonfood applications.

Changes in the agricultural herbicide chemical applicators: the GMO and non-GMO effect

There have been many changes in agriculture after the consolidation of the seed industry.  Farmers that use genetically modified seed are now used to the seed choices available, the bundling of traits with their hybrid choices and the choices of herbicides appropriate for controlling weeds in the field.  The use of the herbicide Roundup plays a significant part in the herbicide mix and in the herbicide mixtures available for post-planting weed control.  The spraying equipment has also become larger to cover more acres.  While this has changed the applicator’s business, it has also affected the farmers’ planting of non-GMO  and non-Roundup tolerant corn that has lost the choice of chemicals for weed control.

Before the applicators’ equipment increased in size and capacity farmers could still get the applicator to flush the system to clean up the Roundup formulations.  Now it is more difficult.  The applicator can do it if the non-GMO field is large enough to cover the cost of cleaning and the chemical mixture to keep the boom full in the system and if it fits in their schedule; otherwise there is a delay.  One applicator I talked to explained that it takes at least 30 gallons of liquid to fill the boom of his commercial sprayer.  It is much easier for the applicator to apply the same chemical mixture to most of their customers’ fields. There are more and more small sprayers in the country-side owned by farmers that need the flexibility to manage their own farming operations.

Another change in the applicators’ industry is the choice of chemicals.  Most of the herbicide formulas involve two or three different chemicals that combine their own synergies to control the weeds.  The result is more cost and less choice.  Farmers can still buy generics and name brand chemicals but they need to know where to source the chemicals and they have to make their own application.  Some of these chemicals require applicator certification.

In spite of these difficulties there are possible solutions to spray schedules. The pre-plant application of chemicals for corn and beans is the most common practice.  Roundup usually is not part of the tank mix used by applicators for this purpose.  All farmers, regardless of seed type to be planted, can get their fields included in a spray schedule.  It is more efficient for the applicator to use a tank mix formulated for corn or soybeans as pre-plant or post-plant. Post-plant after seed emergence for the most part includes Roundup because of the amount of acres planted with GE seeds.  It is important to make arrangements with the applicator on a timely basis to get the application needed.

Field Day Planning for 2017

We have scheduled a GEI field day for September 7th at our research location in Luther, Iowa.

The expo that will be presented at our field day will feature hybrids from RM 95 to RM 114.  We will have three high lysine hybrids of various maturities.  Besides the high lysine specialty, there are white, floury, blue, waxy, high carotene and a number of hard texture hybrids of various maturities.  In all, there are 23 hybrids of which to take note.

The event will be listed in the PFI (Practical Farmers of Iowa) field day catalog in the section “Friend of PFI”.  We will also have the information on our website.

Measuring safe seed and grain storage conditions

Grain storage conditions are of importance for farmers producing specialty grains for the food industry, or for farmers storing grain in their bins for future marketing.

For storing grain, moisture content of the grain and relative humidity is important.  Grain for storage needs to be dried to 12-13 % moisture for longer storage. Drying of the specialty grains that are slated for milling for food need to be dried at  relatively low temperatures and low air volume to avoid stress cracks in the kernels and damage to the starch properties. After drying, grain needs to be cleaned before storage into sealed bins to avoid high humidity.  For grain storage, the goal should be to keep it below 65 % relative humidity to prevent mold growth and associated mycotoxin accumulation.

There are a variety of ways to measure relative humidity, including meters and relative humidity indicator paper. The indicator paper can be used to estimate humidity in storage bins, containers or in the field based on the color of the paper. There are indicator paper strips on the market that have a range between 20-80% humidity.  Color variations from blue to pink will indicate humidity estimates in 20% increments.  If you want to only make sure that the grain is safe, whenever the color is blue or pink blue the grain is safe.  If the color is pink the humidity is too high for proper storage.

The paper indicator can also be used for drying conditions in the field. If the indicator is pink the drying conditions are poor and the crop is not drying properly. Drying conditions can change during the day. On sunny days with good wind movement, drying conditions are good and the indicator will likely show a blue to light blue pink color. For operating drying fans in bins or grain driers a low humidity indicator will determine to take advantage of a good drying environment. Relative humidity indicator can be bought on line or at the hardware store.  Relative humidity indicator paper can be ordered online at Micro Essential Lab.

Source: Agronomic news: doi:10.2134/csa2017.62.0504

Recipe: Soft Cornmeal Wraps

In past newsletters, we have let you know where to obtain cornmeal made from our specialty corns.  Besides high lysine from Whole Grain Milling  and high carotene from Early Morning Harvest, you will find our high anthocyanin (blue) cornmeal if you look for “Papa’s blue cornmeal” on

2 cups unbleached flour
¼ tsp. yeast
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. shortening
1 cup water

Mix together all the dry ingredients, then cut in the shortening.  Gradually mix in the water.  Knead briefly, just until the dough is smooth.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces.  Round them and then flatten them slightly.  Cover and let them rest for about 30 minutes.  The resting is important to let the flour absorb the water and to let the gluten relax to make an easier roll out.

Heat an ungreased griddle or large frying pan over medium heat.  Keeping the rest covered, roll out one flattened ball at a time to about 8”.  Dry fry the wraps for about 45 seconds on each side.

Source:  The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, p 183
Photo: Chicken, mushroom, goat cheese wrap from Martha Stewart

Recipe: Corn Tortillas

Photo: Tortilla made with GEI Inka Maiz flour and Maseca nixtamalized corn

1 cup corn flour or fine ground corn meal (specialty corn flours)
1 cup Maseca (nixtamalized corn flour)
1 tsp. of sea salt
2 tsp. of oil (corn, soy, sunflower, canola, or olive)
1 1/2 cups of boiling hot water

Measure 1 cup of corn flour or corn meal in a medium size bowl.

Dissolve  1 tsp. of sea salt in 1 1/2 cups of boiling hot water  and stir in  the liquid with the corn flour until it is uniform consistency.

Add the Maseca flour to the mixture in ½ cup increments and blend in with a spoon until  fully mixed. Work the dough until it is uniform.  Gather the dough into a ball, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Break the dough into 8 uniform balls, and flatten them with a tortilla press until they reach the edges of the press plate.

Cook the tortillas in a pan or griddle set at 400° F.  Cook both sides of the tortilla until they change color from soft wet surface to dry light color. Put finished tortillas in a closed container to keep them warm and soft.   Use tortillas to make tacos, enchiladas or fajitas.