According to my source, who is close to local farmers, all the seed maize for the whole of France is grown in the Creuse Valley, near us. My source lives right in the middle of this cultivation and has the time to chat to elderly farmers.
|Harvesting seed maize in the Creuse Valley a couple of days ago.|
The Creuse Valley is free draining and fertile sandy loam, and because of the river, crops can be generously and reliably irrigated.
|A seed maize crop in the Creuse Valley, ready to harvest, photographed a couple of days ago.|
It is a plant which has separate male and female parts, with the female part making silks and forming the cob and the male parts the pollen filled tassels at the top of the plant. The maize is sown in alternating blocks of two rows and six rows, sown at different times to ensure male pollen production coincides with the formation of the female silk. Just before pollen production the tops of the blocks of six rows are sliced off to prevent them forming male tassels and self-pollinating. So the blocks of six rows of plants will be designated to be the female part of the fertilisation process, and the blocks of two rows will be male. Students are hired in the summer holidays to manually pollinate by pulling the male tassels over to the nascent female cob silk of a neighbouring plant.
|A farming family working to sort and and dehusk their maize harvest.|
After harvest the seed is sent to a depot in North Tours, where it is coated with insecticide and fungicide and dyed pink to prevent it being feed to animals. Ultimately it is sent all over the country for sowing next year's crop.
|Seed maize crop in September a few years ago. This was photographed directly behind my source's house.|
UPDATE: According to another source, in fact only about a third of the seed maize is grown in the Creuse Valley. Roughly another third is grown in the Pays de Loire, and about the same in Brittany.
The farmers have started growing seed for sugar beets around here. They plant the small plants by hand in the spring so it's rather labor intensive. The seeds are harvested mid summer and the rest plowed under.
Katie: interesting! We almost never see sugar beet here in the Touraine.
I suppose you're talking about seed corn for feed corn, not sweet corn.
Ken Broadhurst: yes I assume so. I've only ever seen sweet corn being grown on a large scale in Landes.
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