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'Hastings' Prolific': An Heirloom Dent Corn Variety for Gardeners, Part 1

Rumored to have 14 to 18 ears per stalk and grow over 12 feet tall, 'Hastings’ Prolific' is a white heirloom dent corn that has brought questions from quite a few gardeners over the past few years. It can be difficult to find true facts about this corn, because the original company that developed it no longer exists, and internet searches don’t yield many results either.

H.G. Hastings & Co. was a seed dealer out of Atlanta, Georgia that sold this particular variety, and boasted that it yielded more per acre than any variety planted in the South for three out of four years in a 1914 news article (it allegedly held records in Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia). In one of their catalogs from 1935, they tell their potential customers that it makes wonderful corn meal and roasting ears.

In this same catalog, we can learn a little bit about the true nature of how this corn was intended to mature- “Hastings’ Prolific is a late-season corn, maturing hard corn in 120 to 130 days. Stalk is large, 8 to 12 feet tall, blades wide and vigorous, giving plenty of forage. Ears small to medium size, anywhere from 2 to 7 ears per stalk, according to land quality, fertilizing and distance in the row.”

1914 news article

We are thankful to have been presented with the opportunity to grow Hasting’s Prolific this year in our garden, and there has been great excitement from our plant date until now. We have been keeping record of its growth and taking photographs to back it, so we wanted to share our experiences with you in a two part article.

This first part will cover the beginning half of the corn’s development through Day 72. Expect Part 2 of this article to come out in late August, as we harvest the corn and dry it for seed and meal.

kernels and cobs

We planted our corn on April 21st, 2016, and had about a 93 percent germination rate by May, which equaled 280 plants growing. This particular variety was grown heavily in the South, so we knew that it would be a good fit for our temperatures/growing conditions.

Because it in as open-pollinated variety, we took careful measures to ensure it was not cross-pollinated by having only one variety growing, and ensuring that natural barriers/distance separate it as well from any possible outside source.

By Day 43, the corn was still thriving and already had a maximum height of 6ft tall. On Day 63 the average height per stalk was 8 feet tall and the strongest one measured 10ft. Tassels were beginning to develop by this point, and the honeybees were very active amongst them. A rough storm system came through shortly after we recorded this, and we lost about 10 of the stalks due to high winds, which caused the top half of the stalk to break.

From Day 66 and beyond (up until this point, Day 72) we have seen ears developing as the silks appear. Most of the stalks have developed two ears per, but we are hoping to see more as they are still growing.

The strongest stalk now is 13 feet tall, but the average height is around 11 feet. Because there is so much uncertainty about the height of the corn and the number of ears that develop, as mentioned, we have been taking photographs and journaling during this time to help get rid of the rumors and state actual facts. Just because the company has closed does not mean the legacy of this corn has to disappear.

day 69 hastings

We are growing here at Wolf Branch, and want to do our part to protect heirloom varieties like Hastings’ Prolific. In closing, we want to encourage those raising heirloom plants to keep record of their growth and the fruit/vegetables they may bear, for the benefit of yourself and others who may be interested in raising the same plant.

We also want to encourage those who do not currently raise heirlooms to consider doing so, and to research the many benefits they offer. So many clubs, exchanges, and farms work to preserve these plants for a variety of reasons- genetic diversity, the ability to save seed for next year, to feed yourselves and/or animals, to continue a business/family legacy, and to sell. Will you join us in raising heirloom plants next Spring?

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. This year, they are raising a large crop of heirloom Hastings' Prolific corn that they will be selling seed from, along with making their own cornmeal. They are currently building a small cabin using lumber they have milled themselves, along with raising chickens, ducks, and goats. Read all of Fala's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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