Sweet corn is a commodity that is not currently grown commercially in the Tri-County Agriculture Area, although there were a handful of small growers in the past. The growing conditions are suitable, but the markets are not currently in place. Gary England, former Hastings Agriculture Extension Director, successfully grew sweet corn for years in the Apopka area and he believes that the accessibility to I-95 is an advantage for local growers interested in sweet corn. When harvest time rolls around it would be much easier for transporters to pick up sweet corn from North Florida along the I-95 corridor, rather than driving all the way down to Palm Beach County where most of the sweet corn is grown in Florida. Dr. Wendy Mussoline partnered with UF sweet corn breeder, Dr. Marcio Resende, and the HAEC staff to complete a variety trial on eight different varieties of bi-color, sweet corn. The seed for the trial was donated by four different companies which are highlighted in the table below. In this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcHPM-Ap4m4 Dr. Resende introduces one of his favorite varieties in regards to taste, texture and harvest yield.
The trial was planted on March 2, 2020 and most of the varieties were harvested on May 18, which was 77 days after planting. One early variety, “Superb”, was harvested 72 days after planting. Dr. Mussoline shows each of the varieties up close, describes the grading standards for sweet corn and discusses her choice variety from the trial in the following video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUbGEse2JWU. Harvest yields among the eight varieties ranged from 324 to 448 crates/A (assuming 48 ears/crate), and the highest yielding varieties were ‘Affection’ (448), ‘BSS-1075’ (419), and ‘Seminole Sweet XR’ (407). The varieties with the highest percentage of ears that graded as U.S. Fancy were ‘Everglades’ (90%), ‘Affection’ (86%) and ‘Superb MXR’ (80%).
Sweet corn is much more finicky about harvest dates than potatoes. Potatoes can be harvested within a two to three- week timeframe (depending on the variety), without compromising their quality. Sweet corn, on the other hand, has a very specific maturity date and narrow harvest window. It needs to be harvested within a 2 to 3-day timeframe to ensure the proper sugar/starch ratio, depth of kernel, uniformity, etc. If it remains too many days in the field after maturity, the sugars begin to turn to starch and the sweet, juicy flavor and tender texture are compromised. Watch the taste test video of our very own Wanda Clegg (Clegg Sod Farm in Bunnell) as she chooses her favorite of four varieties https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zyb1GXYm5ig
All of these commercial varieties hold their flavor and texture for weeks after harvest as long as they are refrigerated. This is not the case for some of the older varieties such as “Silverqueen.” After the trial was completed and all the measurements were gathered, the remaining 6000 lbs of sweet corn was donated to L&M Farms and was included in their USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program – https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/news/2020/06/16/farms-deliver-produce-to-local-food-banks-through-usda-coronavirus-food-assistance-program/
Continued efforts will be made to reinvigorate growers in Northeast Florida to grow sweet corn and to establish new market relationships with existing processors in South Georgia.