Farmers’ Practices in Planting Corn Under No-Till Farming system    

3. Planting corn -  Seeds of a glyphosate-resistant variety of corn are sown at the onset of the rainy season, ideally after a heavy downpour or, at least, moderate rainfall. This is to ensure that the soil has sufficient moisture which is needed in seed germination. Regular rainfall in the coming days also favors vigorous growth in sloping lands. Likewise, it is important in the timely application of fertilizers.

Planting corn in no-till farming.Each planter strikes the ground with the tip of a bolo, drops the seed into the hole, and covers the hole with the same bolo or steps on it. They do it in stooping posture.

In our farming community in Sarangani, the corn planting season (locally called panuig) in 2014 commenced in the month of April. The first heavy rain occured on April 14, 2014 after several dry months.

Seeds were sown after slash-and-burn and herbicide spray. This is the most preferred practice in planting corn. From long experience, the farmers know that thorough land preparation is important before sowing corn seeds to ensure maximum seedling emergence and vigor. Consequently in no-till farming, seed sowing is commonly done on land which is rendered weed-free or nearly weed-free by herbicide spraying. If the rainy season has commenced, this may occur a week or so after spraying. 

However, the exact time to plant may be delayed or otherwise advanced depending on certain possibilities. It may be that land preparation has been completed but the coming of rains is delayed, seeds are not available, or the farmer may have been preoccupied with some pressing matters or otherwise hindered to plant as scheduled. Conversely, the rainy season may have commenced ahead of expected schedule, or weed growth after burning is minimal, or farm labor to do the planting may not be available in the next days. Whatsoever, the farmer has several options.  

The term "advanced planting" is used here to refer to the planting of corn after burning but before the application of herbicide following regrowth or soon after herbicide spraying when weeds still look fresh without showing symptoms of toxicity.

Planting Options

a. Delayed planting - Even after thorough clearing and the weeds have been eliminated by herbicide application, planting may be delayed. The delay may be for several to many days. Here the weeds have regrown and have formed a thick mat of ground cover. Seed sowing is done even though the land is not free of weeds but the soil is moist. This option is resorted to otherwise a second spraying has to be done before planting which may cause more delay.

Planting corn this way requires that herbicide spraying should immediately follow. This is to ensure that the emerging corn seedlings will be free or nearly free of weed competitors until early vegetative stage. Farmers commonly do it by having somebody spraying on the area just planted.

b. Advanced planting – Corn seeds are sown a day or a few days after burning before regrowth of weeds and before herbicide is sprayed. However, this option is only resorted to in areas with minimal weed growth prior to slashing and burning.  Otherwise, thick rootstocks will hamper holing (dibbling) and minimize seed germination. Seedling vigor will also be affected due to heavy competition when weeds grow from rootstocks and from seeds not killed by burning at the same time that sown corn seeds germinate.

c. Advanced planting – Corn seeds are sown several days after burning when the weeds have started regrowing but before herbicide is sprayed. However, weed growth should not be as thick as to cover completely the ground so as to hinder planting. This applies in areas where it is obvious that weed growth before burning is minimal.

d. Advanced planting – Corn seeds are sown after burning when weeds have regrown at the same time time that herbicide is sprayed or soon thereafter. While herbicide is sprayed, somebody else do the sowing of seeds on the area already sprayed. Otherwise, seeds are sown a day or a few days after herbicide spray although the weeds are not yet completely killed.        

Consistent with no-till farming, planting is done manually by dibbling.  Dibbling is a method of planting corn in which holes on the ground are made with a tool called "dibbler".  An earlier account of how it was done more than 40 years ago is here reproduced from another page (click here to read on separate window):

Dibbling is an old method of planting practiced by subsistence farmers in marginal lands. It is a form of hill planting in which holes are first bored on the ground. Immediately, planting is done by dropping the seeds into the holes.

My late grandfather used to apply this technique on a portion of the farm in Sarangani. That part of the farm, now grown to coconut which are  regularly harvested for copra, has a very steep slope with shrubs, stumps of trees, and large limestone. Plowing by carabao was impossible so that the only way to prepare the land was by slash-and-burn or kaingin system.

Slashing and burning are done during summer when the grasses are dry, and corn is planted at the start of the rainy season. With a wooden dibbler locally called “panghasok” and "tagad", (a pointed, spear-like piece of stem) held by one hand, he strikes the ground to make holes about 2 inches ( 5 cm) deep and 1-2 steps apart. As the pointed tip of the dibbler is lifted, someone else immediately drops 3-4 seeds of an indigenous, open-pollinated corn into the hole. The hole is not refilled with soil, that part is done naturally by the cascading downward movement of surface soil and fragments of rock. Between harvesting and burning, the area is fallowed.

The above technique in planting corn still survives in some locality with modification as to planting distance and number of plants per hill. Now the farmers in this other part of Sarangani use bolo with a blunt tip. They have not heard of the hand jabber and even if they did, its availability and cost would be a factor in its acquisition. For now anyway, that bolo is all thay they need.

The planter bores a shallow hole on the ground with a downward thrust of the bolo, drops a seed into the hole, and steps over or use that same bolo to close the hole. The practice now is to sow, as much as possible, one seed per hill. 

In one instance where there were eight planters, they started planting corn side by side in stooping posture similar to that in transplanting rice seedlings. The land has a slight slope and they planted in contour lines (perpendicular to the slope of the land). Planting was completed in one day, equivalent to a labor requirement of 8 man-days.

These human planters do not use a planting guide nor any measuring tool in planting corn but when the plants are visible, they appear arranged in equidistant rows with regular plant-to-plant spacing.

Replicated sampling in one area revealed that such practice of planting corn manually resulted to the average planting distance of 50 cm between adjacent rows and 33 cm between plants within the row. At 1 plant per hill, this is equivalent to a ground area of 0.165 sq. cm per plant and population density of 60,606 plants per hectare. 

In comparison, a planting distance of 70 cm x 20 cm results to a ground area per plant of 0.140 sq. cm and population density of 71,428 plants per hectare. Further, a planting distance of 70 cm x 25 cm results to a ground area per plant of 0.175 sq. cm and population density of 57,142 plants in one hectare. A tabular comparison shown below reveals that the farmers’ practice is consistent with the planting distance of 70 cm between rows and 20-25 cm between hills which is  recommended for planting corn in furrows in row planting

Table PC-1. Comparison of planting distances for corn.

Planting Distance Calculated Ground Area Per Plant Calculated Population Density Per Hectare
50 cm x 33 cm* 0.165 sq m 60,606 plants
70 cm x 20 cm 0.140 sq m 71,428 plants
70 cm x 25 cm 0.175 sq m 57,142 plants

*Farmers’ practice in no-till corn farming.

(Ben G. Bareja 2014, edited Apr. 21, 2019)

Herbicide Spraying <<<   >>> Fertilizing Corn 

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