You are on page 1of 21



[printer-friendly HTML version]

Copyright 2002 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Vince Fritz Horticultural Science Southern Experiment Station, Waseca Cindy B. Tong Horticultural Science Carl J. Rosen Soil, Water, and Climate Jerry A. Wright Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering West Central Experiment Station, Morris Sweetness in corn is genetically determined. Sweet corn is a recessive mutant of field corn, and some of its sweetness is due to recessive mutants of the starchy gene found in field corn (Su). Other modifiers and genes affecting sweetness include the sugary-extender gene (se) and the supersweet or shrunken gene (sh2).

Main Genetic Types

Normal sugary (su) corn is the standard corn grown for processing and the fresh market. The seed germinates well at 55-60F. Sugary enhanced (se) corn results in slightly increased sugar levels and slower conversion of sugars to starch after harvest. Kernels are very tender with good "corn" flavor. Seed germinates well at temperatures of 55-60F. Supersweet or shrunken-2 (sh2) corn produces kernels with two to three times the complex sugars of the standard corn varieties. Texture is crispy rather than creamy as with the normal and sugary enhanced varieties. Fresh market shelf life is extended due to the ability of the kernels to retain moisture and sweetness. Seeds are smaller,lighter in weight, and shrunken in appearance (giving the genetic type the name "shrunken").

Recommended Varieties
Yellow Kernels
Sugary (su)

early season (62-72 days): Northern Vee, Earlivee, Seneca Horizon main season (73-83 days): Jubilee, NK 199 late season (> 83 days): Jubilee RR, Cornocopia, Arrestor

Sugary enhanced (se)

early season (62-72 days): Sugar Buns, Bodacious, MapleSweet, SpringTreat, Tuxedo, Seneca Daybreak main season (73-83 days): Incredible, Miracle, Kandy King late season (> 83 days): Tendertreat, Kandy Korn

Supersweet (sh2)

early season (62-72 days): Northern X-tra Sweet, X-tra Sweet 82 main season (73-83 days): Sweetie 82, SuperSweet Jubilee late season (> 83 days): Illini X-tra Sweet, Paradise

White Kernels (must be isolated from yellow or bicolor types)

Sugary (su)

late season (>83 days): Silver Queen

Sugary enhanced (se)

early season (62-72 days): Sugar Snow, Divinity main season (73-83 days): Alpine late season (> 83 days): Argent

Supersweet (sh2)

late season (> 83 days): How Sweet It Is, Snowbird, Pegasus

Bicolor Kernels
Sugary (su)

early season (62-72 days): Quickie late season (> 83 days): Honey n Frost

Sugary enhanced (se)

early season (62-72 days): Athos, Ambrosia, D'Artagnan, Kiss n Tell, Seneca Dawn main season (73-83 days): Calico Belle, Delectable, Lancelot

Supersweet (sh2)

early season (62-72 days): Snowy Sun, Sweet-Green bi-70 main season (73-83 days): Honey n Pearl, Monte Carlo late season (> 83 days): Phenomenal, Hudson

Ornamental Corn

Standard cob size: Chinook, Indian Ornamental, Seneca Red Stalker, Fiesta Miniature cob size: Wampum, Indian Fingers, Strawberry Popcorn

Baby Corn
All baby corn is hand harvested and hand husked from immature corn at or within one to two days after silking. The main varieties used are either prolific (multiple-eared) starchy field corn types (Su) or supersweet (sh2). Research indicates the quality (sweetness and crispness) is equally good for all genotypes, but that yields are higher with prolific (multi-eared) starchy types. Varieties with small kernels and long ears are particularly suited for this purpose. The pickled baby corn (imported from Taiwan and Thailand) is produced from special field corn (Su) varieties developed there for that purpose.

Starchy (Su)

Tainan No. 5, Tainan No. 11, Tainan No. 351, Baby Corn

Supersweet (sh2)

Florida Staysweet, How Sweet It Is (white), Stylesweet

Sugary (su)

Silver Queen (white)

Each ounce contains approximately 120-180 sweet corn seeds. About 10-15 pounds are used per acre. Seed sizing has been widely used in the seed industry to improve uniformity of emergence and stand establishment. In general, flat seed performs better than round seed and heavier seed performs better than lighter seed. Large differences in seed vigor may occur between varieties, particularly under cool, wet, or compacted soil conditions. The difference in performance is not apparent from germination information on the identification tags because germination tests are frequently conducted under ideal conditions. Personal experience with a particular variety is often the only way to know its potential and limitations. Use only seed that has been properly treated with fungicides and insecticides for maximum germination and stand establishment. Seed companies are now offering supersweet varieties that are specially coated with a polymer after being treated with pesticides. The polymer coating reduces user exposure and reduces the amount of pesticide used.

Isolation is necessary for two reasons: color and kernel quality (sugars and texture). Two ways to achieve isolation are distance and time. If effective isolation is not achieved, significant outcrossing can occur, which can render a significant amount of product unsalable (up to 10 adjacent rows of each variety!).

By Distance

Locate the variety most affected by outcrossing upwind from other varieties. Plant varieties with the same genetic type together in a block -- at least 250 feet away from other genetic types.

Since colored kernels in white varieties are very obvious, use an isolation distance of 500 feet or more between white and colored varieties.

By Time of Pollination
If the two- to three-week pollination time difference is to be used as a means of isolation between genetic types, and plantings of different genetic types are adjacent, several things need to be considered:

The later planting must not be planted based o n calendar day difference but rather on growth stage or heat units. Obtain specifics regarding the variety from the individual seed company. The maturity difference between the two types of corn also needs to be figured into the planting date difference. Assuming the standard sweet (su) and supersweet (sh2) varieties have the same maturity (days from seeding to pollination), delay planting the second variety until the first planting has eight or more leaves, or until 300 or more heat units (base 50F) have elapsed. To obtain an effective two- to three-week spread at pollination, the early planting must germinate uniformly. If germination is not uniform, late-germinating plants may cause problems.

By Blocking
Fresh market growers who have a use for, or a market for, ensilage may also choose to "block" plantings that have not been isolated by distance or pollination time. This practice consists of walking progressively further from the boundary of the two plantings, examining a sample of ears in each row visually until a row is found where the outcrossing incidence is acceptable, and abandoning the intervening rows (and using them for silage).

Seeding and Spacing

For early fresh market sugary varieties (su), seeding may start as soon as soil temperatures reach 50F and after the danger of spring frost has passed. Use 10-15 pounds/acre of seed, depending on the variety and seed size. Seeding at a depth of l2 inches is generally satisfactory. Shallow planting ( inch) and maintenance of high soil moisture are recommended where head smut may be a problem and for supersweet (sh2) types. For processing, recommended stands are 26,000 to 27,000/A if irrigated or 20,000 to 24,000/A if not irrigated while for fresh market, where large ear size and good husk color are important, stands should be between 20,000 and 25,000 per acre. For a rough planting schedule that will provide about 10-14 days between mid-season peak harvests between plantings, wait until most of the plants in the previous planting have three

leaves before planting again. Plant fast-growing, small-stature varieties in rows approximately 30 inches apart, with 6-8 inches between plants. Grow vigorous, tall-growing varieties in rows 30-36 inches apart, with 9-12 inches between plants. Plant processing varieties according to the row spacing and rate recommended by the processor. For baby corn two systems are used. One system uses standard populations of about 23,000 plants per acre, where the top ear is left on the plant for grain corn or sweet corn and subsequent ears are harvested for baby corn. The second system uses high plant populations of between 34,000 and 44,000 plants per acre where all ears are harvested for baby corn. Row spacings range from 24 to 36 inches apart. The standard plant populations produce yields of about 4,000 pounds of unhusked ears (400 pounds of husked ears) per acre, while the high populations produce yields of about 8,000-10,000 pounds of unhusked ears (800-1,000 pounds of husked ears) per acre.

Seed Companies/Distributors

Abbott & Cobb Inc., POB F307, Feasterville, PA 19047 Asgrow Seed Company, POB 5038, Salinas, CA 93915 Crookham Co., Caldwell, ID 83606 Green Barn Seed Co., 18855 Park Ave., Deephaven, MN 55391 FerryMorse Seed Co., POB 4938, 555 Codoni Ave., Modesto, CA 95352 Harris Seeds, 60 Saginaw Dr., POB 22960, Rochester, NY 14692-2960 Harris Moran Seed Co., 3670 Buffalo Rd., Rochester, NY 14624 Illinois Foundation Seeds Inc., POB 722, Champaign, IL 61820 Jordan Seeds, Inc., 6400 Upper Afton Rd., Woodbury, MN 55125 Rogers NK Seed Co., POB 4727, Boise, ID 83711-4727 Seedway, Inc., POB 1333, Syracuse, NY 13201 Stokes Seeds Inc., POB 548, Buffalo, NY 14240 Sunseeds, 2320 Technology Pkwy., Hollister, CA 95023 W. Osborne Seed Co. Int'l., 1679 Highway 99 South, Mount Vernon, WA 98273 Zenner Bros. Seed Co., Inc.,1311 S.E. Gideon St., Portland, OR 97202


A wide variety of soils is suitable. It is important that the soil be well drained and well supplied with organic matter. The optimum pH range is 5.8 to 7.0.

Soil Temperature
The minimum soil temperature for germination is 50F. Temperatures should reach 60F for the supersweet and improved supersweet varieties because germination is drastically reduced under cooler soil conditions. Generally, sweet corn takes about 14 days to emerge from 50F soils, but only about 5 days to emerge at 70F. Soil temperature is a key factor to consider when scheduling plantings.

Fertilizer Recommendations
A soil test is the most accurate guide in determining fertilizer requirements. Follow recommended soil sampling to estimate fertilizer needs. Your Minnesota Extension Service county extension educator can provide you with soil sampling instructions, soil sample bags, and information sheets. Good management practices are essential if optimum fertilizer responses are to be realized. These practices include use of recommended varieties, selection of adapted soils, weed control, disease and insect control, good seed bed preparation, proper seeding methods, and timely harvest.

Primary Nutrients
Nitrogen (N) Eastern Minnesota and All Irrigated Sweet Corn
Because of the mobility of nitrate in soils and the complex transformations from organic matter, soil tests for N are not reliable for predicting N fertilizer needs in the eastern half of Minnesota, particularly on sandy irrigated soils. Therefore, N recommendations are based on yield goal, previous crop, and soil organic matter content. Refer to Nutrient Management for Commercial

Fruit & Vegetable Crops in Minnesota (BU-5886), pg. 9, for more information and reference map. The soil nitrate test has not been calibrated for sweet corn in eastern Minnesota and is therefore not used for making N recommendations. Table 1. Nitrogen Recommendations Previous Crop and Organic Mater (O.M.) Level Alfalfa (good stand) -O.M.Yield Goal tons/A <6 6-7 8-9 10

Soybeans Field Peas -O.M.low

Any Crop in Group 11 -O.M.-

Any Crop in Group 22 -O.M.-

Organic Soil3


medium to high 10 30 50 70

medium medium medium low low to high to high to high N to apply {lb/A}6 50 70 40 70 90 110 90 60 110 80 130 100

40 60 80 100

80 100 120 140

110 80 130 100 150 120 170 140

10 30 50 70

Crops in Group 1 barley buckwheat canola corn edible beans flax rye

Crops in group 2 sorghum-sudan sugarbeets sunflowers sweet corn tricale wheat fallow

alfalfa -- poor stand (less than 4 crowns per square foot) -- or new seedling alsike clover or red clover birdsfoot trefoil grass-legume pasture grass-legume hay

grass-hay grass-pasture mullet mustard oats potatoes vegetables

3 Organic soil = more than 19% 4 Low O.M. = less than 3.1% medium to high = 3.1-19% 5 The well-drained silt loam soils in southeastern Minnesota with low receive the same M recommendation for soil with a medium to high O.M. content. All irrigated soils are included in the low O.M. category. 6 For irrigated sandy soils, split N applications are recommended: 10-20 pounds N per acre in the starter and the remainder in one or two more applications at the 4-6 leaf stage and the 10-12 leaf stage.

Western Minnesota
Because of less rainfall, residual soil nitrate from previous crops can be measured and used to adjust the N recommendation in western Minnesota. The soil nitrate test is based on a 0-2 foot sample collected in the spring before planting. Adjusted N recommendations for sweet corn based on the soil nitrate test are provided in table 2. Table 2. Nitrogen Recommendations When Nitrate-N (0-2 ft.)

Soil Test Is Used (Western Minnesota) Yield Goal (ton/A) 4 6 8 10 70 110 145 180 Soil Nitrate-N (0-2 ft.) Plus Fertilizer N to Apply (lb/A)

Timing of N Application
For coarse-textured and irrigated soils, apply N in two to three applications. At planting, apply 10-20 pounds N per acre with P and K fertilizers as a band (refer to section on starter fertilizers). Apply additional N in two equal applications at the 4-6 leaf stage and again at the 10-12 leaf stage. For nonirrigated, fine-textured soils, timing of N application during the season is not as important. In wet years, broadcast application prior to planting is sufficient to meet crop needs, particularly if anhydrous ammonia or urea is used. Splitting N applications after planting works well provided that timely rainfall moves the applied N to the root zone.

Nitrogen Source
From a practical standpoint, the source of N to use for sweet corn production should be based on cost. At equal N rates, N source has little impact on sweet corn provided the N fertilizer is applied properly and that differential nitrate leaching or ammonia volatilization losses do not occur. To prevent excessive nitrate leaching, avoid early application of nitrate-based fertilizer such as ammonium nitrate. If urea is used, be sure that the fertilizer is incorporated or irrigated in within 24 hours after application. Ammonia volatilization can be substantial from surfaceapplied urea. If anhydrous ammonia is used, do not sidedress too close to young seedlings as injury can result. The use of a nitrification inhibitor such as N-Serve (with early-applied anhydrous ammonia) is a best management practice to reduce nitrate leaching.

Phosphorus (P)
Phosphorus requirements for sweet corn are based on soil test P level and yield goal. Banding of P at planning increases P use efficiency compared to broadcast application and substantially reduces the recommended P application rates. Table 3. Phosphate Recommendations Soil Test P (ppm) 6-10 11-15 16-20 Bray-P1 0-5 Olsen-P 0-3 Bcst/Row 4-7 Bcst/Row 8-11 Bcst/Row 12-15 Bcst/Row

Yield Goal

21+ 16+ Bcst/Row

tons/A less than 6 6-7 8-9 10 or more 70/40 80/40 90/40 100/40

P(2)O(5) to Apply (lb/A) 40/25 30/20 10/10-15 50/30 60/35 70/40 30/20 40/25 40/25 10/10-15 10/10-15 20/10-15

0/10-15 0/10-15 0/10-15 0/10-15

If soil pH is 7.4 or greater, use the Olsen P test to determine P needs. If soil pH is less than 7.4, use the Bray P-1 test. For low P testing soils, a combination of broadcast and band applications is suggested. For high P testing soils, only banded applications are needed. Testing P levels is particularly useful for early-planted sweet corn where where soils may be cool and wet.

Potassium (K)
Potassium requirements for sweet corn are based on soil test K level and yield goal. On low K testing soils, a combination of broadcast and banded applications of K is suggested. On high K testing soils, all K fertilizer can be banded. Table 4. Potassium Recommendations Soil Test K (ppm) 40-80 81-120 121-160 Bcst/Row 60/30 80/30 100/40 120/40 Bcst/Row 40/10-15 40/10-15 60/25 80/30 Bcst/Row 40/10-15 40/10-15 40/10-15 60/25 -K(2)0 to Apply (lb/A) 120/40 140/40 160/40 180/40 0/10-15 0/10-15 0/10-15 0/10-15

Yield Goal tons/A less than 6 6-7 8-9 10 or more


161+ Bcst/Row


Secondary Nutrients
Calcium (Ca)
Most soils in Minnesota are well supplied with Ca. In acid soils where Ca levels may be low, Ca requirements are met through a proper liming program. On acid soils where sweet corn is in rotation with potatoes and liming is not practiced, some supplemental Ca may be needed. Soil test Ca levels less than 300 ppm are considered low. In this situation, low rates (1,000 pounds per acre) of a fine lime should be applied during the year that potatoes are not grown.

Magnesium (Mg)
As with Ca, most soils in Minnesota are well supplied with Mg. In acid soils, where Mg levels may be low, Mg requirements are met through a liming program using dolomitic limestone. If liming is not used in the rotation, for example with potato production, some supplemental Mg may be needed. Mg needs based on a soil test are provided in table 5. Table 5. Magnesium Recommendations Magnesium Relative Magnesium to Apply Soil Test ---(ppm)--0-49 50-99 100+ low medium high 100 50 0 Level Broadcast -------(lb/A)-----20 10 0 Row

Common sources of Mg fertilizer include potassium-magnesium sulfate (10 percent Mg) and Epsom salts (10 percent Mg). Finely ground dolomitic limestone can also be used to supply Mg.

Sulfur (S)
Sulfur may be needed for sweet corn production on sandy soils. Soil tests for S are only reliable for low organic matter soils. Needs for S based on a soil test are provided in table 6. Table 6. Sulfur Recommendations Relative Sulfur to Apply Level low medium high Broadcast --(lb/A)-20-30 trial only 0 0 10-15 Row

Sulfur Soil Test -(ppm)0-6 7-12 12+

For sweet corn, the need for S occurs early in the season. Therefore, a banded application of S in the sulfate form is suggested.

Zinc (Zn)
Of all the micronutrients, Zn is the one most likely to be needed in a fertilizer program for sweet corn. The need for Zn fertilizer should be based on a soil test. Table 7. Zinc Recommendations Zn Soil Test(ppm) Relative Level Zn to Apply(lb/A) 0-0.5 0.6-1.0 1+ low marginal adequate Broadcast Row 10 2 5 0 1 0

If Zn is required, application of Zn in a starter fertilizer is suggested to meet crop needs. However, carryover to succeeding years will be better with broadcast applications. Several fertilizer products can be used to supply Zn. Except for large particles of Zn oxides, all are equally effective. Base product selection on cost.

Boron (B)
No consistent responses of sweet corn to B application have been observed in Minnesota. Where the soil test value for B is below 0.25 ppm, a trial broadcast application of two pounds B per acre is suggested. Too much B fertilizer can be highly toxic; do not exceed suggested application rates. Fertilizer containing B should not be in contact with the seed. Low rates of B (1/8 lb per acre) can be used in a starter fertilizer if the fertilizer is placed two to three inches below and two to three inches to the side of the seed.

Copper, Manganese, and Iron

Sweet corn responses to copper, manganese, and iron have not been observed in Minnesota and are therefore not recommended in a sweet corn fertilizer program.

The optimum pH for sweet corn production is 5.8-7. Lime is generally recommended if soil pH is less than 5.8. The need for lime can be determined from a routine soil test. Lime should be applied before planting and incorporated to a depth of six inches. For further information on lime-lime application rates, lime sources, and reference map, refer to Minnesota Extension Service bulletin, Nutrient Management for Commercial Fruit & Vegetable Crops in Minnesota (BU-5886), pgs. 2-4.

Using Manure
The amount of plant nutrients in a fertilizer program can be reduced if manure is used. The nutrient content of manure varies with type of livestock and methods used in storage, handling, and application. Many laboratories will measure the nutrient concentrations in manure. Manure analysis is strongly recommended if routine applications are made for crop production. The results of such an analysis will give a more precise measurement of the nutrient value of manure.

Using Starter Fertilizer

The use of a starter fertilizer at planting is an excellent management tool for corn production in Minnesota especially when soil conditions are cold and wet at planting. Yield increases are not always achieved with starter fertilizer, but this management practice is good insurance. For sweet corn, fertilizer should be banded two to three inches to the side and two to three inches below the seed. Banding fertilizer too close to the seed or at too high a rate can cause seedling injury due to high salt concentrations. In general, the N plus K 2 O application in a band should not exceed 90 pounds of nutrients per acre. Urea or diammonium phosphate forms of N may cause seedling injury if banded too close to the seed at planting, especially where the soil pH exceeds 7. In addition, urea, ammonium thiosulfate (12-0-0-16) or fertilizer containing boron can cause significant injury if placed in contact with the seed.

Tissue Analysis
Tissue analysis can be used during the growing season to monitor the nutrient status of the plant and help diagnose nutritional problems. Table 8 shows sufficiency levels in whole plant samples taken when plants are 12 inches high and in ear leaf samples taken during silking.

Stage of Growth

Table 8. Sufficiency Levels Plant Part % Sampled N P


K Ca Mg S Fe B Cu Zn Mn Mo 20 50 0.3 20 25 0.3

12" height Whole plant 3.5 0.6 3.0 2.5 0.3 0.2 60 50 7 Silking Ear leaf 2.8 0.25 1.5 1.5 0.25 0.2 50 40 6

Irrigation Management
Water management of irrigated sweet corn is an essential production practice to produce optimum yields and quality ears. Yield and quality of ears are significantly reduced if moisture stress occurs during tasseling, silking, and kernel fill. Short periods of moisture stress earlier in crop development usually will not affect yield unless poor germination occurs. However, it may delay harvest date. To manage the soil's moisture effectively, a regular in-field soil/water monitoring program should be established to assist in irrigation scheduling. Establishment of an effective irrigation scheduling program involves being knowledgeable of several factors and then putting them into practice. The following discussion briefly outlines those factors.

Crop Water Use

Water use by the crop is referred to as evapotranspiration (ET). Sweet corn will use four to six inches less total water than field corn in a season, but generally will use similar daily amounts for the same conditions. Daily ET is dependent on several factors such as stage of growth, air temperature, and solar radiation. Table 9, taken from the Minnesota Extension Service bulletin Irrigation Scheduling (FO-1322), gives estimated daily crop water use in inches for different corn growth stages and several maximum daily air temperature ranges. Table 9. Estimated Daily Crop Water Use Week After Emergence (growth stage) 2 (4 Leaf) Air Temperature ( F) 6 (12 Leaf) 8 (Tassel) 10 (Pollination) 12 (Milk)

--inches of ET per day--

50-59 60-69 70-79 80-89 90-99

.02 .03 .04 .05 .06

.06 .09 .12 .15 .18

.09 .12 .16 .20 .24

.10 .15 .19 .24 .28

.10 .14 .18 .22 .26

The greatest daily water use will usually occur from tassel to harvest. It is not uncommon for sweet corn to use .25 inch per day or more for several days. To keep up with this use, your irrigation system must have a similar capability. For sandy soils, a system capacity of .25 inch or greater per day is generally recommended. The following table gives the system gallon per minute (GPM) capacity needed for each acre, irrigated for various pumping periods per day and crop water use rates. To determine the total system capacity needed to adequately meet the crop water needs for a given system, simply find the appropriate capacity and multiply it by your total corn acres (table 10). Table 10. System Gallon Per Minute (GPM) Capacity GPM/ACRE at 75% Application Efficiency Crop Water Use (inches/day) 0.15 0.20 0.25 0.30 12 hr/day 7.6 10.1 12.6 5.1 18 hr/day 5.0 6.7 8.4 10.1 24 hr/day 3.8 5.0 6.3 7.6

Rooting Depth
Sweet corn has a relatively shallow rooting depth compared to field corn. Most literature suggests that under irrigation, only soil moisture in the top 18 to 24 inches of the rooting zone should be managed. If the soil is shallower or a restrictive layer prevents root growth, the root zone to be managed must be reduced.

Available Soil Water

Available soil water is the water stored in the soil that roots can extract. The amount of soil water available to a plant is dependent on both the rooting depth potential and the soil's available

water-holding capacity (AWHC). The AWHC for a given soil is expressed in inches of water per inch of soil and is dependent on the soil's texture and organic matter. The AWHC for your fields can be estimated by SCS personnel or others having access to area soil maps. To determine the total available water capacity in a field, simply take the soil's AWHC times its rooting depth potential. For example, a sandy loam textured having an AWHC of .12 inch per inch and a 24inch rooting depth will store a total of 2.88 inches for the sweet corn plants. Knowing the amount of available water the soil is storing at any time is very important. It governs the amount of water that can effectively be applied at each irrigation without overirrigating. Several tools are available to assist in monitoring the available water. A discussion of the typical monitoring methods can be found in Minnesota Extension Service bulletins Irrigation Water Management Considerations for Sandy Soil in Minnesota (FO-3875) and Irrigation Scheduling--Checkbook Method (FO-1322).

Irrigation Timing
Generally, optimum sweet corn growth will occur if the soil moisture level is maintained at about 85 percent of the available water capacity, although symptoms of moisture stress usually do not appear until the soil moisture has been reduced to 40-50 percent of capacity. Cycles of extreme wet versus dry conditions should be avoided as it may reduce ear quality. Sweet corn is most sensitive to moisture stress during pollination and ear formation. Irrigation start-up should generally occur when the soil moisture level is between a -inch deficit and 60 percent of field capacity. During the critical growth stages, keep the soil moisture as high as possible at all times. At germination time it is also important to start out with a full profile, but then allow the soil to dry down to possibly 50-60 percent of field capacity up to the 10-11 leaf stage to ensure a rapid and complete root development. Timing of irrigation may also be influenced by other factors, such as nitrogen application, insecticide spraying, disease suppression, forecasted rain, and harvesting.

Harvesting and Handling

Optimum processing quality and returns for normal sweet and sugary-enhanced (su and se) varieties occur when kernel moisture is about 73 percent and 76 percent for supersweet (sh2) varieties. Kernel moisture drops approximately 0.5 percent per day in normal sweet and sugaryenhanced corn varieties with considerable variation depending on season and variety. Kernel moisture of supersweet (sh2) varieties changes at a considerably slower rate. Fresh market corn

usually reaches peak maturity from 21 to 25 days after silking. Self-propelled and tractor-pulled harvesters are available from several manufacturers. These come in single-row or multiple-row units of up to eight rows. For fresh market corn harvest, some of the harvesters have to be slightly modified so that they do not damage the butt portion of the ear. These modifications are generally made easily and are usually offered as options from the manufacturer. Corn for processing is generally machine harvested in Minnesota between July 25 and October 10. Harvest begins when kernels of standard varieties reach 70-74 percent moisture. Corn should be protected from overheating (kept in shade) and delivered to the processor as soon as possible. Supersweet and sugary enhanced varieties (grown for fresh market) maintain their sugar content longer after harvest than standard varieties but still require immediate cooling and refrigerated transport and handling. They are usually harvested at 76-78 percent moisture.

Baby Corn
Baby corn has to be hand picked at, or within, one to two days after silks emerge from the ear tip. Field corn varieties are harvested at silking, while supersweet varieties may be harvested up to the time silks are about two inches long but still fresh. Determine suitability of ears for picking by sampling for size. Market requirements limit size to 2.5-4 inches in length and 0.25-1 inch in diameter. Ears quickly become too long and tough. Carefully remove and husk the ear so as not to break or damage it.

Fresh Market
For fresh market, ears are generally sold unhusked. They are very perishable and must be kept crisp. Refrigerate to protect sugar levels that are important in corn flavor quality.

Ears intended for processing must be carefully husked and desilked. Process immediately by canning or freezing.

Excerpt from USDA Agricultural Handbook #66:
"Hold sweet corn at 32F and 95 to 98 percent relative humidity. Sweet corn is seldom stored, although occasionally it may be desirable to store an excess supply temporarily. However, storage for more than a few days results in serious deterioration and loss of tenderness and sweetness. The sugar content, which so largely determines quality in corn and which decreases rapidly at ordinary temperatures, decreases less rapidly if the corn is kept at about 32F. The loss of sugar is about four times as rapid at 50F as at 32F. At 85F, 60 percent of the sugars may be converted to starch in a single day as compared with only 6 percent at 32F. However, corn loses sweetness or desirable flavor fairly rapidly, even when iced and held at 32F. Long shanks and flag leaves should be trimmed before marketing, as they induce denting of the kernels by drawing moisture from them. Denting is an indication of loss of quality. A loss of 2 percent moisture from sweet corn may result in objectionable kernel denting. "Rapid removal of field heat from sweet corn, when at 86F or higher, is especially critical to retard deterioration. Maximum quality retention can be obtained by precooling corn to near 32F within an hour after harvest and holding ears at 32F during marketing. In practice cooling to this extent is rarely achieved. However, cooling is the first step in a good temperature management program. Sweet corn has a high respiration rate, which results in a high rate of heat evolution. "Sweet corn can be precooled adequately by vacuum cooling, but it must be wetted first (and top iced after vacuum cooling). Crated corn can be vacuum cooled from about 85 to 40F in a half hour. Hydrocooling by spraying, showering, or immersion in water at 32 to 38F is effective, although it takes longer than vacuum cooling for the same temperature reduction if the corn is packed before it is cooled. "Crated corn would take over an hour in a hydrocooler to cool to 40F, and few if any, operators leave it that long. It is important to check cob temperatures during hydrocooling to determine if temperatures are being lowered to at least 50F. Hydrocooling nomographs for bulk and crated sweet corn are available. Many hydrocoolers now handle palletized crates, with crates four or five layers high. These coolers, with overhead spray nozzles, can be effective if they use a large volume of water and allow an hour or more of operation. After hydrocooling, icing is desirable during transport or holding to hasten continued cooling, remove the heat of respiration, and keep the husks fresh. When precooling facilities are not available, corn can be cooled with package ice and top ice. "Sweet corn should not be handled in bulk unless copiously iced, because it tends to heat throughout the pile. Corn should not be expected to keep in marketable condition even in cold storage at 32F for more than 5 to 8 days. The storage life at 40F is about 3 to 5 days and at 50F about 2 days. Corn brought to Farmers markets is often not packaged and brought to market in bulk piles. It should be iced as the morning progresses to prevent deterioration.

"Some corn is prepackaged in moisture-retentive film, with the husks removed after precooling. The film should be perforated to prevent development of offodors or offflavors. This product is very perishable and must be marketed with continuous refrigeration. "Use of controlled atmospheres to extend storage offers little promise. Research has shown that injurious atmospheres contain less than 2 percent oxygen or more than 20 percent carbon dioxide. In an atmosphere with 2 percent oxygen, the sucrose content of sweet corn remained higher than in other atmospheres tested. "Some of the new, highsugar sweet corn cultivars should improve consumer satisfaction. As compared with standard cultivars, which contain 3 to 5 percent sugar at harvest, the new cultivars contain 7-10 percent sugar and also lose their sweetness more slowly during marketing. Thus, consumers purchasing the sweeter cultivars after several days' storage should get corn with 5-6 percent sugar as compared with standard cultivars containing only 2-3 percent sugar after similar postharvest handling."

Wirebound crates, 42-50 pounds, are commonly used as containers for corn. Corn is packed 4 or 5 dozen per crate. It is also sold in waxed cardboard boxes.

Acknowledgment Gratitude is expressed to Dr. Bill Mansour of Oregon State University for providing the initial template of information from which this publication was developed.

Community \ Environment \ Family \ Farm \ Garden \ Living Home \ Search \ Product Catalog \ News \ Workshops \ Online Shopping About Extension \ Extension Offices

Produced by Communication and Educational Technology Services, University of Minnesota Extension. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this material is available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact your University of Minnesota Extension office or the Distribution Center at (800) 876-8636. University of Minnesota Extension is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, or sexual orientation.

January 28, 2008