Reposted with Permission by Dr. Sam Moyer.
Although there hasn’t been broomcorn production in Baca County for many years, there actually has been quite a bit of research done in the not so recent past. My newest broomcorn acquaintance is Dr. Sam Moyer, a geneticist and a broom maker from New Jersey. Dr. Moyer has done quite a bit of work towards bringing a cottage broomcorn industry back to the United States. The work primarily revolves around producing a seedless and harvestable varieties. Much of the work was done in conjunction with Dr. Henry Hadley who worked at the University of Illinois / Urbana. I have permission to repost his writings and will do so in a series of posts. I will also share any other golden broomcorn nuggets I pick up. I am sure there will be additional info later but let’s get started with the first installment which was published in the Broom Makers News in 2007…
All varieties I used this year were dwarf (less than 5′ including the brush; same as dwarf grain sorghum with a brush instead of a head). For the first time since I began collaboration with Dr. Hadley in 1983, all varieties developed multiple brush colors when fully mature. 80 varieties that I developed grew with some difficult weed competition. None have center stems. 37 varieties had too few observations so they will be repeated next year for further evaluation. I saved 6 seed heads from each of the 43 varieties and mixed the seed into two gene pools: 31 varieties with a top leaf near the knuckle and long peduncles for machine harvest; 12 varieties with a top leaf covering too much brush or short peduncles. Samples of these two gene pools will be sent to Univ, IL/Urbana for another performance evaluation. FREE seed samples from the machine harvestable gene pool are available with a self-addressed stamped envelope on the condition that you do a performance report.
I produced backcross “hybrid” seed from all 4 generations in the cycle starting with “female” grain sorghum. I will maintain a colorful long variety as a pollinator. Intermediate hybrids make beautiful wreaths and can be used loose for dry flower arrangements. Hybrids are better and more colorful than the varieties but degenerate in about 2 generations. FREE seed samples of “2nd choice’ advanced hybrids are available to new growers with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Larger samples are available to experienced growers of decorative broomcorn. Experienced growers for brooms get 1st choice.
My attempts failed this year to catch broomcorn on a sheet of plywood behind a sickle-bar grass/hay mower hitched to a tractor (too many grassy weeds). A tractor PTO grain reaper/binder would be perfect! I mowed the plants near to the ground and picked up the broom corn by hand making bundles with the tips about even. I tied them with twine and put them under a roof overnight. The next morning, I used a scraper (can be roofing nails in a tire) to deseed the brush and dried it in the sun till mid-afternoon. Then I spread it out under a roof. (The leftover stalks made good handles.)
When convenient, I lined up knuckles and cut off stalks 10″ below the knuckles so it’s ready to make woven top brooms. I spread them out to let the top leaves dry. Dry “boots” pulled off easily. Then I used my sizer invention (directions for making available) to sort 10 lengths every 2″ from 10″ to 26+”. I used the scraper again to remove the remaining seeds on each length. I spread out the peduncles for long-term drying. Brush from my varieties formed a statistical normal distribution/bell shaped curve with 18″ most frequent.