History of Corn in Canada

CORN: HISTORY, PRODUCTION AND UTILIZATION

WHEN about 300 years ago the first European settlers arrived in the American Continent they brought with them seed of wheat, oats, barley and peas— the principal cereals grown in Europe at that time. iSince then, wheat, the great bread crop, has been continuously produced on this Continent, and is now exported in greater quantities from this Continent than from any other part of the world. The United States has been known to produce over a billion bushels in a year and Canada’s production has reached as high as a 400-million bushel mark. The production of oats, likewise, has reached astonishing proportions, the United States producing as high as 1£ billion bushels and Canada over half a billion. Barley and peas also have made a great mark, particularly barley, but none of these compare in quantity produced with the enormous production of a cereal found growing by the discoverer of this Continent some 425 years ago when first he landed here, namely Indian Corn or Maize.

The corn crop of all America together has in one year been known to surpass the startling figure of three billion bushels, or probably more than all other cereals put together.

As suggested, the corn crop is one that has long been cultivated in this country; as proof, Columbus in his report to Isabella. Queen of Spain, after his first voyage of discovery in 1498, stated that he had seen growing on this continent fields of corn eighteen miles long. Cartier, a few years later, in 1535, describes the Indian Village of Hochelaga (where Montreal now stands) as being surrounded by large fields of growing corn at the time of his visit. In 1685 the English, in connection with one of their wars with the Seneca Indians, claimed to have destroyed about 1,200,000 acres of corn in what is now the ‘State of New York, and Frontenac in 1690 spent several days destroying corn in the same State in connection with his trouble with the Onondaga Indians. Other early explorers in the western parts of the United States and Canada, such as De Soto and Lasalle, make mention of large fields of corn. Thus, we have ample proof that corn was the great staple of the Indians long before the white man reached the shores of this continent.

European settlers early learned the use of this cereal from the Indians and, with them as with the Indians, it soon became the staple crop. Certain of the Commanders bringing over groups of colonists to the United States, gave them small areas of land on condition that they plant it with corn, showing the high esteem in which this crop was held by those responsible for the early development of this continent.

Corn, as just stated, was the great staple of the Indians; in fact, their whole life centered around it. The Indians venerated it and there were Corn Priests, Corn Directors, Corn Guardians and various other functionaries in connection with the production of the crop.

Their methods of cultivation, selection, seed testing, etc., astonishing to say differed but little from those of the pre- sent day. In cultural methods they did not, as do we, follow a rotation, but grew corn year after year on the same land until the field played out, when they changed to another field. They grew the corn in hills for the most part, planting usually seven seeds in the hill. They were careful to select the seed, choosing the ears with long straight rows of even kernels, and usually discarded the butt ends and tips. In many cases they tested the seed before planting, by allowing it to germinate either in small heaps or wrapped in what might have been called “the rag-doll” of that day — a layer of nettle leaves over which the seed was strewn thickly, loosely rolled up, tied with thongs and thoroughly wet and kept warm until the seed germinated, when the seed was planted, any not germinating or showing swollen germs being rejected.

The types grown then were, as there are today, the Flint and the Dent. The Indian used corn for human consumption only, of course, and the two types grown were used for different purposes: the Flint for making hominy and similar foods; the Dent for the production of hour. ‘They, like ourselves, too, seemed to enjoy the roasted ear. In fact, the roasting of the corn was often celebrated as a feast, large quantities being husked and, after a pit had been excavated ‘and a large quantity of brush and such material burned in it for some time, thus heating it to a high temperature, the corn was laid in it protected by layers of husks and covered over, left for 24 hours, then uncovered and the feast began.

As already suggested, the crop of corn in this country is enormous. The United States crop alone runs from two and a half to nearly three billion bushels of grain and from thirty-five to over forty million tons of ensilage or forage, the most of this latter crop being stored in about a half-million silos. For instance, New York State alone is supposed to have over 60,000 silos and an- other state, Wisconsin, has somewhere about the same number.

Canada’s crop is astonishing when we think of the latitude of this country, namely, something over 15 million bushels of which Ontario alone produces about 13 million bushels.

In addition to the crop for grain, Canada produces about 6 million tons of corn for forage. Of this about 4J million tons are produced in Ontario. It is estimated that this forage crop is housed in about 40,000 silos in the case of Ontario, with 14 or 15 thousand outside of that province. Outside of hay, silage is certainly the most important forage crop grown in this wide Dominion.

Corn for Silage

The production of corn for silage purposes is a somewhat different matter from production for seed or grain purposes and the cultural treatment of the soil somewhat different. At Ottawa we find that we secure best results when we spread the manure broadcast in the fall, winter and spring or, in other words, as it is made. This would, of course, be influenced somewhat by the topography of the farm, but on land not subject to inundation or serious washing, I believe this is the best method for applying manure. The manure is applied at from 12 to 20 tons per acre according to the supply. The ploughing is not done until as short a time before seeding as practicable, and the moment the land is ploughed it is rolled or packed then disked and well worked down, and seeding done as soon after ploughing as possible in rows 3-J feet apart. It is then thinned by cross harrowing or, if on account of weather conditions this is not practicable, by means of a hoe so that the average stand does not exceed about one plant every eight or nine inches. The double horse cultivator is commonly used until the plants become so big as to be injured by straddling; then the single horse until the horse and man are no longer visible in the field. The corn is cut when in the late dough stage; is run through the cut-box and cut into as short pieces as possible, as the finer it is the better it will- keep and the better will be the flavour. The varieties we find most satisfactory are, Wisconsin No. 7, Golden Glow and Early Learning, but possibly some large varie- ties might be more satisfactory in west- ern Ontario. I have seen at least one most extraordinary field of Eureka growing at London.

At the Experimental Farm at Ottawa, the average cost to produce corn for the past four years has been $57.62 per acre or $3.52 per ton with an average yield of 16-4 ton per acre. A tabulated state- ment of the cost and returns would be as follows : — -

Average for 4 years — 1917, 191S, 1919 and
1920

Rent of land $ 8 22*

Manure 7 65f

Seed 1 97

Machinery 3 69

Twine 77

Manual labour (40c. per hr.) . . 24 75

Horse labour 10 56

Cost per acre 57 62

Yield per acre 16.40 tons

Cost per ton $ 3 52

Value per acre 9184

Profit per acre 34 21

* Land value $1 .25 per acre. t One-half value of manure. (Variety mostly used, Wisconsin No. 7.)

The value per acre is figured on the selling price of hay which, in the aver- age of four years, made the ensilage worth $5.61 per ton.

The advantages of growing corn for ensilage in Canada are many, summar- ized briefly as follows: —

1. It is an exceedingly cheap feed since, over a period of 20 years, costs have run from $1.50 to $3.92 per ton when, labour and supplies were most expensive. .

2. Large returns per acre. The aver- age crop in this period of time has been equal to about 5 tons of clover hay per acre.

3. Best crop on which to apply manure.

4. Best crop to use when breaking up a sod field.

5. Best crop for cleaning land.

6. Easiest crop to harvest as to weather conditions.

7. The crop most cheaply housed.

8. The crop most easily handled in feeding.

9. Best crop for supplementing dry pastures.

10. Best crop to help induce cattle to consume coarse and poor roughage.

11. Cheapest and best succulent food that can be grown in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

12. The crop that permits of the carrying of most live stock per acre.

In short, in Canada as in the United States, it is the stockman’s crop par excellence, and now, in Canada as in the United States, this crop is greatly endangered by the appearance of a new pest; in fact, by the appearance of about the only pest that has been of any considerable menace to the crop since the white man started growing it on such an extensive scale on this continent. I refer to the European Corn Borer, which was discovered in Ontario in 1920, and to this pest I think the attention of every farmer in this eastern part of Canada should be drawn and his most intelli- gent co-operation in the attempts at control be asked.


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