I’ve just got back from my summer holiday and while driving through the country I got curious about corn.
Every field of corn we went past had a small sign on the roadside that seemed to be almost like a registration number.
I didn’t just go past corn (NZers I went from Auckland to Papamoa) but many different crops (avocados, grapes, kiwifruit apples etc, oh and LOTS of cows!) but no other crop had anything that resembled the “corn sign”.
Every single patch of corn (and they were quite small patches in the middle of LARGE farms full of cows) that we passed had these registration type numbers on the side of the road.
When we got home I googled what I could remember from the signs (so not the number!) the main thing was “Pioneer” and “PGG Wrightson”.
Why is corn special? Are there corn police who travel around the world making sure all the corn is registered? What are the odd “registration” numbers all about any way? Why corn not other crops? What are the long serious lists of corn seed dealers about?
Is corn some kind of alien I should know about?
Sorry for the very long URL, I seem to be not able to find the “make this URL a word” button (it’s a long time since I linked to anything…advice is welcome)!
But to the best of my knowledge (which is scrappy at best) NZ does not have widespread GM crops yet and this was small patches of corn fairly well spread during the whole trip (corn was spread over at least 160 kms of a 220 km trip) but patches were in pretty close proximity to each other.
Some farms are demonstration farms for the seed supplier. All the varieties in the demonstration plot have signs for each variety. They don’t really name corn varieties for farm production by other than numbers so there is no confusion. The local farmers can see how a variety does in low lands or sandy fields, and ask for varieties that grow well for their farm with similar soil conditions. Buying what grows best in your conditions can increase yields significantly.
Note that when something shows hybrid vigor, i.e., a crossbreed produces offspring better than the parents, the improved traits do not get passed to the next generation and sometimes the hybrid offspring are sterile.
That means the farmer cannot plant hybrid corn and save some to use as seed corn the next year; even if the seed corn is not sterile it will not be as good as the first generation hybrid. The goal of the seed company and the reason for the advertising is to develop hardy but sterile hybrids that can only be grown by buying fresh seed from the company every year.
As said above, it’s advertising. The marketeers are hoping that if your neighbours crop does better than your own, you know what variety to ask for next year. Of course there are many reasons for differences in performance, least of all the variety.
Maize seed costs a lot, and is very costly to establish. I think there are only the 2 suppliers here and they are fairly harsh with each other. Consider the signs to be the equivalent to dogs peeing on thistles