April 2014
Talkin' Huntin'

Got Corn?

One of the most important details in producing a good stand of corn by broadcasting is to find a way to cover the seed to the appropriate depth. Harrow drags like these can be purchased in 4-by-6 foot sections. A disk or other types of drags may also work.  

Simple Broadcasting Methods
for Planting Corn

Some managers believe there are two things you need if you wish to plant corn on your property – adequate acreage and a corn planter or drill. Au contraire mon frère … although you will need enough acreage to keep up with the amount of pressure your animals are putting on it, you don’t necessarily need a corn planter or drill - corn can simply be broadcasted! Oh, Todd, tell us more!

So let’s begin by talking about the "density to acreage" issue. Corn is not a great yielding crop in comparison to other food plot crops so you will need enough acreage in corn to keep up with the amount of deer, turkeys and other animals feeding on it. This magical number will vary depending upon many factors - your location north to south, quality and amount of native foods, how much total acreage you’re putting into corn, whether or not there is cash-crop corn farming nearby, etc. A 1-acre plot of corn in the northern half of the country or Canada will be ripped out by the roots before it ever has a chance to tassel. You’ll just have to estimate and give it a shot. It’s typically in the corn plots of 2 acres and larger where I begin to have success. I would suggest you plant at least 6-8 total acres in corn in spots where corn farming is prevalent and there to back you up, and at least 10-12 acres in spots where there is no corn in the area.

  For an easy wildlife plot, corn and soybeans can be blended together. Isn’t it remarkable that a whitetail can remove every kernel without knocking the cob off the stalk?

OK, you’ve got the acreage, but no corn planter. Worry not. Corn can be broadcast. In fact, other larger seeds not commonly planted this way can also be broadcast. Where normally I like to prepare my seedbed well in advance of planting and prefer a firm, weed-less, flat seedbed, when broadcasting larger seeds such as corn, beans or peas I prefer a somewhat fluffier bed. This way the soil covers the seeds easier. I can manipulate the soil easier if it’s just been worked. In fact, because I will usually be using a Roundup Ready variety of corn, I sometimes won’t initially burn-down the spot first, since I’ll be coming back about 30 days later to apply glyphosate anyhow.

The key to this whole deal is finding a way to bury the correct amount of seeds the appropriate depth. Any type of broadcaster will do as long as it will spread the seeds for you. Since not every seed will be buried at a uniform depth like it would be with a drill, from my experience you want to increase your seed rate approximately 15 percent. Some seeds will be a little deep and some seeds will be a little shallow, but you want the better majority to be in an acceptable germination zone.

Possibly the most important detail is finding an implement that will cover the seeds the appropriate depth with your particular soil type and your specific way of preparing the seedbed. I’ve had success with certain cultipackers, disks, drags and harrows. Experiment.

The rule of thumb when using a disk is to set it at twice the depth you want the seeds planted. So if you have a 1 inch planting depth, set the disk at two inches; for a 1.5 planting depth, set the disk at three inches. Again, not every seed will be perfect, but by increasing your seeding rate 15 percent, the better majority should be. You may have to do some trial and error with your method to fine tune it, but I broadcast plant corn all the time with success.

You really can’t beat the look or yield of a plot done with the proper equipment, and I do use a corn planter from time to time and a drill for planting beans, but my brother-in-law Mike Berggren and I plant our corn and soybeans on our Ontario property this way every year. Being absentee landowners we can only trailer so many vehicles and implements each time we go. I store my equipment at home so we always need to broadcast our corn when we travel there in the spring.

I’ve tried covering the corn seed with a disk, but my preferred method is to use a harrow. Or what I refer to as a harrow – an implement consisting of a heavy frame with sharp tines or teeth. I’ve heard it called a "drag" or a "harrow-drag" also, but they’re typically sold in 4-by-6 foot sections. The tines are usually about 8 inches long and angled one way so it can be used in three different ways – aggressive with the teeth angling forward, medium aggressive with the teeth angled back, or completely flipped over so the teeth aren’t engaged at all (so it can be used for planting smaller seeds like clovers and brassicas too).

I occasionally plant a corn/soybean fusion. If you are mixing beans and corn, I’ve messed around with recipes over the years and for an easy no fuss, no mess wildlife plot, mixing them together does work well. The beans affix good nitrogen so you get beautiful green corn that cobs out well. I’ve messed around with ratios of anywhere from about 10-20 percent corn with the rest soybeans. It really depends upon the varieties you choose, but right about in the middle at around 15 percent corn seems to work well.

If you choose to plant your corn separately as I most often do, simply go by the instructions for that specific variety and increase the rate by about 15 percent from the normal drilled rate. I thought of titling this article, "Planting Corn for Dummies," but that would make me a dummy. Anyone with the simple equipment of a broadcaster, sprayer and an ATV can have a corn plot for the wildlife on their property and it’s really easy to do.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-Chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.