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A new variety of corn

"The whole ornamental crops market has been growing over the last 20 years. We don't know what sparked it," said Brad Bergefurd, horticulture specialist at The Ohio State University's South Centers in Piketon. "Everything you decorate with can come from (local) farms."

South Centers, OSU's Extension Office and a regional business incubator, researches ornamental corn for regional farmers. Bergefurd said the research is driven by needs of regional farmers - farmers growing ornamental corn in record numbers.

Typically sold in bundles of three with husks pulled back, ornamental corn retails for between $3 to $6 per bunch. Wholesale prices, unshucked, fall in the $2-to-$3 range. Bergefurd said ornamental corn growers in Ohio normally spring up near viable markets, such as the Bainbridge Produce Auction.

"It's scattered throughout the counties," Bergefurd said. "There are good pockets around markets. Circleville certainly has a lot because of the pumpkin festival."

Bergefurd said exploring retailers is vital to farmers just entering the market. He said growers should spend winter and spring exploring potential markets.

"The biggest thing is the marketing," Bergefurd said. "It's not as easy as field corn where you dump it in an elevator. Marketing in these specific crops is an all-year thing."

Nolan Staker owns Staker Farm and Greenhouse in Stockdale. He grew ornamental corn for 18 years before labor costs and a flooded market made him quit.

"In this area, the market on it is not near what it used to be," Staker said. "(Customers) can get it a lot of different places. Everyone and their brother raises pumpkins."

Some farmers have customers with decorating already on their mind.

"We grow a lot of pumpkins. ... We also thought we could sell a little corn on the side," said Clark Jones, of Chillicothe. He long has sold pumpkins at his farm 2 miles outside Chillicothe, but decided to grow 1 or 2 acres of ornamental corn five years ago. Jones said he continues to improve on his crop, which like much ornamental corn yields few saleable stalks.

"It's got to be perfect or people don't want it," Jones said. "We could do better. We're learning."

Jones said two of his five years of ornamental corn production have been fruitful. Two were hurt due to dry years and a third because of using the wrong kind of herbicide.

"One year we just fed it to the cows," Jones said. "They liked it fine."

Jon Branstrator, of Clarksville, raises 23 acres of pumpkins and started growing ornamental corn six years ago with a 1¼4 acre. He now grows 31¼2 acres per year. Branstrator sells a few thousand bundles at the Bainbridge auction and said he benefits from a good market in the area.

"I know that I have an outlet there," Branstrator said. "If everyone was doing it, then it wouldn't work because the price would be too low."

He said many of his ears are imperfect an unable to be sold.

"A friend of mine gets all the ugly ones for his hogs, and they don't seem to mind," he said.

"You're going to have some poor quality ears," Bergefurd said.

Bergefurd said growers should proceed cautiously when choosing seed types. He recommends keeping ornamental corn at least 1,000 away from field and seed corn to avoid cross-pollination.

"A grower can really mess up their marketing opportunities just by selecting the wrong grain," he said. "We never want to bet the farm on a new variety."
MGR Archive 24.9.2006
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Region Type Price  
Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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