Corn cobs

Today we are going to talk about corn (scientific name Zea mays), a crop that is more than 7000 years old. Maize is one of the most important cereals in the world, as it is a nutritious element that is widely used in both human and animal food.

Worldwide, it ranks third in importance among cereals, after wheat and rice, in the food economy.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for 2019, a total of 356,825 hectares (2.11% of total arable land) will be cultivated in Spain, with Castile and Leon, Aragon and Extremadura being the Autonomous Communities with the largest areas of this crop.

 

Maize cultivation and its origins in Spain

To find out how corn arrived in Spain, you have to go back to 1493, more specifically to the second voyage that Christopher Columbus made to the West Indies. When he arrived in Spain, this crop did not receive the welcome that the admiral expected, and was only used as a fodder crop for animal feed, taking advantage of the fallow lands. But soon afterwards it began to be grown in the farmers’ gardens, as this crop was exempt from paying the lords’ fees and church tithes, and was therefore very profitable.

Thanks to its rapid climate and high yield (up to 80 kernels of corn could be obtained), it soon spread to Andalusia, Castile and Catalonia.

 

Did you know that… the word corn is of Indian Caribbean origin and literally means “life sustaining”?

There are 8 varieties of corn: sweet, hard, burst, dentate, floury, waxy, opaque with quality proteins and baby. There is probably no more versatile crop than this, from which practically everything is used.

Did you know that… corn in its various forms is an ingredient of more than 3,000 supermarket products?

Diagram of uses of corn

 

Main soil and climate requirements of maize cultivation

Maize adapts very well to all types of soil, but is especially suited to soils with a pH between 6 and 7. This crop requires deep soils with a high organic matter content and an edaphic structure that allows good drainage to avoid waterlogging that could cause root asphyxiation.

Corn requires a temperature of 25 to 30ºC. It requires sufficient sunlight and in humid climates its yield is lower.

For the germination of the seed to take place the temperature must be between 15 and 20ºC. Maize can withstand minimum temperatures of up to 8ºC and from 30ºC serious problems may arise due to poor absorption of mineral nutrients and water. Temperatures of 20 to 32ºC are required for fructification.

Rows for planting maize

Water requirements of maize  cultivation

On average, water consumption is estimated at around 5000-6000 m³/ha for the development of the entire crop cycle, reaching high production levels. Naturally, these values vary depending on the water availability of the land, the climatic course and the cultivation technique.

The irrigation programme must perfectly satisfy the water requirements in the period between the emission of the plume (about two weeks before flowering) and the lactic-waxy ripening (5-6 weeks after flowering), for a total of 50-60 days.

During the whole production cycle the irrigation time and the volume of irrigation must be calculated to rationalise the use of the water resource avoiding the minimum stress, which is manifested by leaf withering that could mean a loss of production estimated in some cases at 6-8% per day.

The volume of irrigation must be established in such a way as to wet the surface layer of soil which is approximately 0.70 m thick.

Until the early years of the new millennium, maize had always been irrigated using methods characterized by low irrigation efficiency.

Thanks to the new environmental awareness, the increasing decrease of water resources and the increase of energy costs, the use of drip irrigation in the cultivation of maize has also developed in recent years.

Underground corn irrigation

The advantages of the use of drip irrigation in maize are several and of great importance:

– An average yield increase of 30-40% is achieved.

– Better quality of the grains thanks to the reduction of the periods of hydric and nutritional stress that is translated in a reduction of the attacks of mycotoxins.

– Water savings in the order of 30% thanks also to the indifference of the drip method to wind and loss through evaporation.

– Fertirrigation makes it possible to distribute fertilizers in a timely manner and fractionated in time, to meet the needs of maize.

The irrigation of maize with localised irrigation is carried out using the appropriate seasonal irrigation belts provided with integrated drippers with different flow rates and distance between the drippers.

The technique of sub-irrigation, or underground irrigation, is being applied more and more frequently in the maize crop. This practice allows to reach the highest levels of irrigation efficiency and saving of nutritive elements by directly distributing the fertilizers in the rhizosphere. The installation is carried out in a mechanical mode and in this case it will be necessary to use integrated drippers that are thicker than those used on the surface. Our TERREAM NEO pipe is the ideal solution for this technique of localised irrigation.

Are you thinking of establishing drip irrigation in your corn crop? Contact us and we will help you design, implement and manage the drip irrigation system that best suits your needs.

 

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