DuPont Pioneer recently held a field day and told farmers the future was likely 55,000 one-third pound ears instead of 22,000 half-pound ears. That may prove correct, but some farmers still hold to tradition and like to see big ears on their stalks.
Recently, Jason Roll, farmer and FFA advisor at Northeastern Wayne, began shucking back ears of the outside row of a corn field while he waited for his students to judge soil pits. Someone questioned why he would do that.
"That's what they still do in my area," he said. "Farmers who have good looking corn on the outside row like to pull back the shucks so everybody can see how good it looks."
Was he telling the truth or joshing me? I opted for the truth. Most older farmers know the outside row will yield more and the ears will be bigger if you fertilized it and killed the weeds. The better performance comes from less competition and the chance to get all the sunlight on the outside. So the ears may be some of the biggest and best in the field. In the old days they would have been the ones grandpa might have picked off first to take to the county fair, when corn was judged on the cob in displays of 10 ears or so.
The outside row won't be the best if you tried to plant into the ditch bank and then didn't get the nitrogen on that far, or didn't spray the weeds out that far. It may also be yellow with smaller ears in that case, even though it got less competition from one side than any inside rows.
Some traditions are hard to beak. If you see a field of corn with part of the outer row with the husks pulled back, you heard it here first.