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Maize cultivar names: From poetical to practical

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Romantic, descriptive names added atmosphere to the maize farming industry in the good old times before hybrid seed – when a yield of four or five tonnes per hectare was regarded as abundant and when a farmer could sustain a large family on 200 to 300 hectares.

It is understandable that today, no maize farmer could make a living with those poetically named cultivars. Still, we should not allow these names to disappear from our maize culture and heritage.

Listed below are some of the beautifully named maize cultivars with which our forefathers fed the nation:

Natal-witperdetand (Natal white horse tooth) had short, thick cobs with 12 to 14 rows of kernels. It was also available in a yellow variety, called Natal-geelperdetand (Natal yellow horse tooth).

Many of the older farmers will still remember Hickory King.

Hickory King

Voortrekker was in the same slow-growing category as Hickory King.

Hickory-perdetand and Eureka were somewhat earlier ripening cultivars.

Rooistronk Hickory (red cob Hickory) was the name farmers gave to Silver King. This variety was a faster grower than Hickory King.

Rooistronk Hickory (red cob hickory) is the name given by the farmers to Silver King.

Anveld was the tastiest white green mealie. Nobody knows where the name comes from, but most farmers called it “Aandveld” (evening field) which made it sound more romantic.

In the Western Transvaal farmers loved to plant Early King and called it “Ingelsman” (Englishman) for short.

Potchefstroom-pêrel (Potchefstroom Pearl) was a hardy cultivar that thrived in the whole of the Transvaal, Natal, Northern and North Western Free State.

Early Pearl maize seed was marketed in the early 1950’s by JFT Mostert from Balfour at between £3 and £5 per bag with a claim that the cultivar could triple your harvest.

Wisconsin-witduikpit (Wisconsin white dented) was a popular grower in the Western Transvaal and on the Springbok Flats.

Wit Boesman (White Bushman) was a very quick grower and only flourished in the Eastern Free State and a few other areas. It was also known as Wit Kango (White Kango), Springhaas (springhare) and Sit-en-dra (literally ‘sit and carry’), probably because the plants did not grow very high.

In the Eastern and Western Transvaal and the North Western Free State, Kroonstad Robyn (Kroonstad Ruby) was a popular yellow cultivar with genuine dented kernels.

Le Roux-proef was a popular yellow dented mealie that performed well in the Lichtenburg area, all over the Eastern Transvaal Highveld, Western Transvaal and the Central Free State. It was very similar to Golden Beauty.

Initially Boesman Cincinnati (Bushman Cincinnati) was responsible for the bulk of yellow maize production in the Eastern and Central Free State, and was also suitable for late plantings in the North Western Free State and Western Transvaal because it was a fast grower. Bleek Boesman (Pale Bushman) was similar to Boesman Cincinnati, but with pale yellow kernels.

Natal-8-ry (Natal-8-row) was a very fast-growing yellow mealie planted all over the Transvaal and Free State.

Broodmielies (Bread Mealies) was a definitive type of maize with a high content of soft starch. However, one source warns: “Weevils find it as tasty as humans.”

The first maize hybrids with cold number names, were PP X K64, SA11 double hybrid and the yellow SA200 double hybrid. That brought an end to the era of descriptive and beautiful names in the idiom of the people. Maize cultivars no longer had names; they are called by mere numbers.

Every true-blooded farmer fondly thinks back to the old, descriptive maize names, but we all know that numbering cultivars makes sense to tell the farmer more about the cultivar’s nature, character, and other attributes.

A number name makes sense if the numbers have meaning. However, it will be even more meaningful if the farmer knows exactly what the numbers indicate. For that reason, ProAgri offers every seed company the opportunity to explain to readers what the numbers on their cultivar tags denote. For some readers it will be old hat, but for others it may provide fresh and useful information.

This month we take the plunge on page 18 with the PIONEER® numbered cultivars and, simultaneously, an announcement of new summer cultivars.


Sellschop J, & Stead B. 1957.

Akkerbougewasse: Mielies. Hulpboek vir Boere in Suid-Afrika. Deel II. Department of Agriculture.

“Hoëvelder”. 1952. Die verbouing van mielies. Boerdery-jaarboek. Impala-uitgewery.

Elbrecht B. 1929. Natuurstudie vir standerd V en VI – Plaasoeste, onkruide, bome en groentes. JL van Schaik.

Mackenzie A J. 1925. Suid-Afrikaanse Boerdery-jaarboek vir 1925. Die Landbouweekblad.



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