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Myers’ back yard - That’s where the tall corn grows

By ANDREA FURLONG

meyers
Mike and Tracey Myers, Williamsburg, stand with two of their tallest corn stalks grown in Our Iowa magazine’s Tall Corn Contest. The Myers won the contest with a stalk measuring 17 feet, 9 inches high.
corn

Some used Coke. Some used beer. Others used milk. But Mike and Tracey Myers simply relied on luck and lots of nitrogen to win Our Iowa magazine’s Tall Corn Contest.

The chef and his wife beat out an estimated 5,000 other contestants, many of them farmers, in their mission to grow the tallest corn stalk in the state contest. Four weeks ago, when their tallest stalk had reached 17 feet, eight inches, they knew they were the leaders in Iowa County, according to Eric Feller, a local employee of Edward Jones (the contest company sponsor, also responsible for measuring contest entries). However, the couple had never even imagined the possibility they might be leading the competition in the state.

“Winning? We figured someone out there had taller stalks with all the farmers and people experienced with corn,” Tracey said.

A ROUGH START

Things were not actually looking up for the Myers when they planted their contest seed early this summer. Two weeks after their seedlings were just beginning to sprout, the plants were destroyed by critters, and Mike and Tracey had to start planting all over again.

Not only did they have to overcome a late start, but they also had fierce competition in their own county. A former Monsanto corn breeder had grown stalks reaching over 11 and a half feet by early July, using a combination of a sophisticated organic fertilizer and structural support system.

“I know we drove by his corn one day, saw how tall the corn was and came back home and spread a bunch of nitrogen on ours,” Mike laughed.

As luck would have it, though, at some point, their main competitor’s corn stopped growing, and the Myers’ corn went on to grow and grow and grow so high, that by September, the couple had to ask the assistance of an Alliant Energy crew in a boom truck to help them measure their stalks.

THE TRICKS OF THE TRADE

Without the farming background, the Myers relied on the advice of others to grow their corn.

“The closest I know to growing corn is cooking it,” Mike joked.

And, the Myers had plenty of suggestions, including watering with milk and some advice they don’t feel comfortable discussing in detail, other than to say “there were some really bizarre suggestions.”

But, the best advice of all, they say, is to give the plant lots and lots of nitrogen — which they did.

“Some say it (grew so tall) because it was sheltered from a lot of wind. We’d park the van next to the corn to give it a little protection on windy days. But, I think the nitrogen had a lot to do with it,” Mike said. Since hearing the news of winning the contest Oct. 1, the Myers said they could not be more thrilled. They have been interviewed by a local news station, two newspapers and recently found out of their publication in a farming magazine by happenstance.

“We had a man who drove 75 miles to see the corn, said he she saw it on the front page of the Farm Bureau Spokesman. He also said he’d never seen corn that tall before,” Tracey said.

While the Myers have inarguably won the contest, there actually has been taller corn grown in Iowa. The tallest corn stalk ever grown in Iowa belonged to a Washington County man named Don Radda. The stalk, called “the Frankenstein of corn” by Tracey, measured 31 feet and 7/8 of an inch high. The measurement stands today as a world record.

UPDATED October 14, 2009 11:43 AM

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