Ornamental & Dry Field Corn
Average 100 seeds/oz. All open-pollinated. Days to maturity are for dry stage.
Zea mays 2 oz packet sows 50 ft, 1 lb sows 400 ft. Seeds per packet vary, open-pollinated selections average 100 seeds/oz. normal sugary varieties 140 seeds/oz and SE cultivars with shrunken seeds 150-160 seeds/oz. We do not offer supersweets as these are poorly adapted to cold soils without using seed treatments.
Identification and history: Seed catalogs in the 1800s featured “Indian Corn,” decorative multi-colored ears with soft starchy kernels easily ground into flour or with flinty kernels often used to make corn meal and grits (680-692); dent corn with indented kernels eaten fresh or roasted in the milk stage or used to make flour, corn meal, grits and cereal; field corn for animal forage and silage (8056-73); and sugar corn, forerunner of today’s sweet corn. Sweet corn seed, probably originally a mutation of flint or dent corn or both, first appeared in commerce in 1828 and became popular a generation later. As sweet corn became the first crop to be hybridized, most of the open-pollinated varieties disappeared between 1930 and 1970. All sugary enhanced sweet corn traces back to a single inbred developed in the 1960s in Illinois by Dr. Dusty Rhodes, ILL677a. Our trialers have found SE corn to be especially suitable to our climate, with good cool-soil tolerance and a near-perfect blend of sugars and corn flavor.
Culture: CAUTION: Untreated sweet corn seed will not germinate in cold wet soil. Please be patient and wait till soil warms to at least 60° before sowing, or start seedlings indoors and transplant at 3–6" before taproots take off. Tender, will not survive frost. Heavy nitrogen requirements. Rows 3' apart, 4 seeds/ft. Thin to 1' apart. When corn is knee-high, side-dress with azomite or alfalfa meal to stimulate growth. Plant in blocks of at least 4 rows to ensure adequate pollination, essential for good tip fill. If you lack sufficient space for enough plants for good pollination, try hand-pollinating by cutting off the tassels and shaking their pollen onto the silks. Sweet corn is ready 18-24 days after the first silks show, the exact time dependent on the weather in the interim. Press ears 2" from the tips to assess kernel fullness. Harvest when the kernels are plump, soft, tender and filled with a milky juice. Most sugary enhanced varieties have an optimal picking window of 5–7 days, but some open-pollinated selections hold only 1–2 days.
Minimum soil temperature 50°, optimal temperature range 60-95°, optimal temperature 80°. Emergence takes 22 days at 50°,12 days at 59°, 7 days at 68°, only 4 days at 77°. 98% normal seedlings at 77°, only 91% at 86°.
Testing: We randomly test sweet corn seed for transgenic contamination; see below. We cold-test all significant carryover lots of sweet corn seed and post results on our website. Cold-testing mimics spring conditions and assesses suitability for sowing in cool soils.
Pests: If you have trouble with crows pulling up seedlings, try Bird-Scaring Balloons (see 8820 in our OGS catalog) or cover sowings with floating row covers (9101). Remove covers at 3–6" to avoid plant abrasion. Apply a few drops of mineral oil to the silks to reduce earworm damage. Interplant with pumpkins to discourage marauding critters. MOFGA’s organic crop specialist Eric Sideman uses electric fence, two strands set low to deter small pests and two set high to discourage deer. If, like me, you don’t want to electrify, I outwitted my lazy groundhog by surrounding the patch with the chicken wire I use for pea fence. A good dog may be the best critter deterrent of all.
We Test Sweet Corn and Beet Seed for Transgenic Contamination
- MDMV: Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus
- NCLB: Northern Leaf Blight
- R: Rust
- SCLB: Southern Corn Leaf Blight
- ST: Stewart’s Wilt
To help ensure the purity of our seed, we have for the past dozen years employed industry leader Genetic ID to test random samples of our sweet corn lots for the presence of transgenic contamination. Because of the risks posed by production of genetically engineered Roundup Ready beets, we have added beet and chard varieties to our GE testing program.
We remove any lots that test positive for transgenic contamination.
A negative test result, while not guaranteeing
genetic purity, improves your chances that the seed is uncontaminated. These tests are expensive, but in a time of genetic roulette, they are necessary though not sufficient to assure seed purity. Only if the seed trade takes an adamant position that we will not tolerate GE contamination in our product can we maintain any integrity in our seed supply.
Most of the information in our pest management sidebars comes from Cornell’s Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management
Pest: corn earworm
Cultural controls: use resistant varieties with tight husks such as 541
Bodacious RM or 658
Silver Queen, choose short-season varieties, release trichogramma wasps. (Beneficial insects are available from Beneficial Insectary at insectary.com
Material controls (see OGS catalog
): Bt Kurstaki
), Spinosad (8922-4
Pest: European Corn Borer (ECB) and fall armyworm
Cultural controls: mow and disk old corn stalks into the soil, release trichogramma wasps (found to give better control than insecticides in research by Cornell’s IPM program on five organic farms) for ECB; none known for fall armyworm.
Material controls: Bt Kurstaki,