Sweet Corn Variety Trial
While food prices are high and supply chains are struggling to get merchandise into the stores this holiday season, the economically challenged in and around the Tri-County Agriculture Area of Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns Counties enjoyed fresh sweet corn for Thanksgiving. Despite seed shortages, the UF/IFAS Hastings Agriculture Extension Center managed to grow 0.5 acres of five different varieties of sweet corn this fall. “Cabo” and “BSS-1075” were provided by Syngenta, “Everglades” by Crookham, “Obsession” by Seminis, and “Courage” by Illinois Foundation Seeds Inc. The crop was planted from seed using a Monosem four-row planter (check out the youtube video to see the Monosem in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS1toqFYG28) on September 14 and harvested on November 22, 2021 (69 days after planting). The Hastings crew harvested all the research plots by hand and Dr. Marcio Resende (UF Sweet Corn Breeder) sent his team of graduate students over to gather important data such as yield per acre, husked weights and grading distinctions. Sweet corn is a relatively fast maturing crop compared to cabbage and potatoes and so it can be easily integrated as a secondary cash crop. The fall harvest generally produces smaller yields than a spring planting; however, the climate was nearly perfect for fall sweet corn this year.
And the Winner IS….
Our best producer was “Obsession” which is a bicolor variety developed by Seminis Seed Company, and it yielded an average of 400 crates per acre compared to only 250 crates per acre in the Spring 2021 planting. The “Obsession” ears were consistent and 98% of the harvested samples that were internally evaluated (i.e. husked and measured) were graded as “Fancy.” According to the USDA, Fancy Husked grades must be at least 5 inches long, well trimmed, well developed which means ears are fairly straight and not stunted, and free from insect and disease damage.
Reaping the Benefits
Most importantly, the taste of all five varieties was succulently sweet and the kernels were so tender they practically melted in your mouth. After all the sample plots were harvested for each of the replicated varieties, the Hastings Center invited The Society of St. Andrews to harvest the rest. The UF/IFAS Hastings Extension Center generously donated approximately 3,000 pounds of sweet corn to local food banks to be served for the Thanksgiving holiday meal. St. Andrews sent 14 volunteers to harvest the corn by hand and Farm Share sent their refrigerated truck to haul the produce to their distribution center on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. A couple of local churches in the area also received a couple hundred pounds to share with the needy. Lemon Street Produce in downtown Palatka had their soft opening on Saturday, November 27th, and they shared nearly 100 pounds with community members. After the research is said and done, it’s all about keeping it local and sharing with those in need. Any grower interested in working with these or other specific varieties of sweet corn should contact Dr. Wendy Mussoline (email@example.com) for more information.
The author is employed by UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agriculture – An Equal Opportunity Institution.