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Higher than a knee

By NICK NARIGON

corn
Carroll McKusker, 381 W. Adams St., Marengo, measures a 13 and a half foot corn stalk in his backyard Monday, Sept. 21. McKusker has entered a tall corn contest through the magazine, "Our Iowa."

Carroll McKusker didn’t have anything better to do, so he decided to see if he could grow the tallest corn stalk in Iowa.

McKusker, 88, Marengo, a retired farmer, is entering the “Edward Jones Tall Corn Contest” sponsored by “Our Iowa” magazine.

McKusker’s wife, Fern McKusker, subscribes to the magazine, and last spring all subscribers were sent a bag of seeds.

The seeds were imported tropical seed corn from Mexico and Brazil. Because of the daylight differences between the Midwest and the equator, the corn can grow 15 feet tall, or taller, in Iowa’s growing conditions.

Whoever grows the tallest corn stalk will receive a bushel basket of prizes as well as bragging rights.

Carroll McKusker said, “I just decided to try it. I didn’t have anything to lose.”

So in the first week of May, using a hole digger, Carroll dug down a foot and a half and planted the seeds behind the shed in his backyard. He said it should be a good spot, with the wind blocked in three directions and plenty of sunlight from the south.

He added commercial cow manure and let the seeds set.

Once the plants were six to eight inches tall, he applied Miracle-Gro, and gave them another shot two weeks later.

Once the plants reached a foot, Carroll said they just took off.

“Soon I couldn’t reach the leaves,” he said.

By late September, Carroll said the tassels were out, and he suspects the corn is done growing.

As of Sept. 21, the tallest stalk measured in at 13 feet, six inches.

When asked if he thinks he will win the contest, Carroll said, “Probably not. It’s just something to do.”

In his 50 years of farming west of Marengo, he said he has never grown corn so tall. He said his corn grew nine feet in a good year.

Of his new mammoth corn, Carroll said he will pick the ears, dry the seeds and give them to somebody else to plant. However, he said hybrid seeds don’t usually do as well in the second year.

If there is a contest next year, Carroll said he would give it a try. He said he will plant the seeds in the same spot, only move them over a foot.

The deadline to enter the Edward Jones Tall Corn contest is Oct. 1. The winner will be announced in the Dec./Jan. issue of “Our Iowa” magazine.

UPDATED September 23, 2009 9:56 AM

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