Zapalote Chico, an ancient early corn from southern Mexico.

Here is another ancient corn from Mexico, this time from the southern part of the country (Oaxaca and Chiapas).

Zapalote Chico is a member of the same large group that includes Tuxpeño, albeit a much smaller relative. It is found predominantly in dry areas with short rainy seasons, being able to mature in 85 – 90 days after sowing. It is reputedly capable of handling rather strong winds, due to the plants’ short, stout growth habit. Supposedly it makes excellent totopos (tortilla chips) too.

The plants are 6 – 7 feet tall, needing ~56 warm days to bloom, and daylength neutral despite coming from southern Mexico and having no previous selection for earliness. Grain ripening takes 45 – 50 days after pollination. Ears are short, and row number ranges from 10 to 14. Kernels are dented but rather soft, like Gourdseed. Husks are **EXTREMELY** tight, hard, and numerous. Very strong resistance to Southern Rust here after artificial inoculation.

Notice how tightly the husks wrap around the tip of the ear. Combined with husk number and hardness, this gives great protection vs. earworms. Moreso still when combined with silk maysin.
Same ear as above, shucked. Notice the great number of husks. They’re hard and coarse, unlike the softer husks of many temperate corns.

Seedstock was harvested in 2021 and traces back to 100 plants.

This population isn’t worthwhile as is due to its low yield, but it would make a great breeding resource. Z. Chico is the only variety that redwing black birds will largely leave alone here, due to the corn’s husks. It is nearly immune to earworm damage also. Southern Rust resistance is one of the best that I’ve observed too.

Almost no Southern Rust development on Z. Chico, even though I inoculated these plants ~28 days before the photo was taken. (The yellowing leaf in the middle was the one that I intentionally infected.)

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