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Growing Corn in Aquaponics Gardens
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Eating juicy ears of corn can be a simple yet fulfilling pleasure, especially during summer bbq’s. Due to movie films often showing vast fields of corn stalks, many people believe that cultivating the beloved yellow veggie requires acres of land to grow, which isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, growing corn in aquaponics gardens is very possible, however, it will take some work on your part. If you can provide the right growing conditions and ensure proper pollination takes place, you can enjoy fresh harvests of high-quality corn every year.
In this article, you will learn some interesting bits about corn and how you can set up an aquaponics system to help them thrive.
Why Grow Aquaponic Corn
Corn (Zea mays, also called maize) is a warm-season vegetable that traditionally thrives well with adequate space, sufficient lighting, and the right seasonal conditions. It may be a popular vegetable, although it’s not typically a common choice for home gardeners. However, with more people now focusing on building sustainable food ecosystems, raising corn in aquaponics gardens is becoming more popular than ever before.
Having fresh corn on the cob to serve on the table will truly be a treat for anyone. While you can cook it traditionally by boiling, there are other ways to prepare and enjoy this vegetable. You can have it steamed, roasted, or grilled and paired with meats.
Another popular use for corn is making popcorn, but this variety – known as Zea mays var. everta, which also has various strains – is the most unique of all maize types because of its ability to pop. Dried out kernels of popcorn are usually placed in the microwave to be enjoyed as a popular tasty snack.
Health Benefits of Corn
In addition to taste, corn is also a healthy vegetable. Despite containing mainly carbohydrates, it provides various health benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the basic nutrients you get from eating one cup (145 g) of boiled corn are as follows:
- Calories: 125
- 2g of fat
- 27g of carbohydrates
- 22mg of sodium
- 9g of sugar
- 3 g of fiber
- 5 g of protein
Corn is rich in fiber and contains a decent amount of protein. The vegetable is also rich in vitamins and minerals. However, the levels of minerals tend to be higher in popcorn, while vitamins are mostly found in sweet corn. It’s good to note that while sweet corn contains sugar, it has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause a significant spike in the blood sugar.
Corn Varieties For Your Aquaponics Garden
There are several types of corn, and each one differs according to its culinary uses. Aside from popcorn and sweet corn, there’s flint (for cornmeal, polenta), flour corn (for fine-ground cornmeal), and dent (for industrial corn products). Sweet corn is the most popular variety and that people typically find on their dinner plates.
Sweet corn may be classified into three distinct types based on their genetic background: Normal sugary (SU) contains standard sugar levels; Sugar-enhanced (SE) contains more sugar level than SU but with a retained creamy texture; and supersweet (Sh2) has the highest sugar content but lacks the creamy texture.
Of the three sweet corn varieties, home gardeners tend to prefer to grow those in the SE group more often. Below is a list of recommended types of sweet corn you can grow in your aquaponics garden.
- Ambrosia Hybrid (SE, 75 days, matures early)
- Golden Bantam (SU, 82 days, fast-maturing variety )
- Sugar Buns (SE, 72 days, early maturation; a top choice for home gardeners)
- Precocious (SE, 66 days, matures very early)
- Jubilee (SU, 82 days, late mature)
Early-maturing varieties can do well in regions where temperatures are cool, and the growing season is short. Late maturing varieties are best suited for warmer climates and long growing seasons.
Growing Requirements for Aquaponic Corn
When growing aquaponic corn, consider the factors below:
Aquaponics System Types
Most home gardeners who grow corn aquaponically use media filled beds. You can go for 5-gallon buckets, making sure there are two stalks per bucket or use a standard bed with six stalks.
Aquaponic corn prefers a pH range of 6.0 to 6.8. Make sure to use a quality pH meter.
Expanded clay aggregate or hydroton clay is a preferred choice of media for growing corn in an aquaponics garden.
Water and Air Temperature
Maintain a water and air temperature range between 77° F to 91° F.
Make sure the plants receive 8 to 12 hours of sunlight daily.
Tilapia can be a great match for aquaponic corn. They thrive in temperatures of 82° – 86° F but are also able to live outside of that range.
Plant seeds about an inch below the surface of your chosen media. You can expect germination to occur in about a week. As for harvest, each stalk usually produces two ears of corn.
In a cornfield, it could take 18 to 21 days to harvest corn after the first silk appears. However, you may have it faster in an aquaponics setup. If all goes well with your system, you can expect to harvest around two weeks after you spot the first silk.
Corn can experience issues with pests, but earworm happens to be the most common one. This worm feeds on the ear tips. A diverse grow bed and maintaining a good aquaponics system should prevent earworm attacks.
Common Problems When Growing Corn
The following are some of the potential diseases of corn:
- Corn-smut – a fungal disease that results in unsightly white growths to form on the leaves, stalk, and ears.
- Rust – does not cause significant damage, but can result in red spots on the leaves that may be unsightly; this disease mostly occurs in cool regions
- Stewart’s Wilt – this viral disease, caused by flea beetles, is characterized by brownish streaks in the leaves, which will eventually lead to the plant’s death or stunted growth.
Corn relies on wind, rather than on insects, to pollinate. In this case, hand pollination may be necessary. To begin, snap corn tassels (male part of the corn that carries pollen) and use it like a feather duster to touch corn silks.
You may need to carry out this process for over a week, so it’s up to your judgment how many tassels to snap off for dusting. Manual pollination can be time-consuming, which is why some gardeners would use fans to help blow pollen off the tassels. You can use this method once you see tassels appearing.