Zea mays 2 oz packet sows 50 ft, 1 lb sows 400 ft. Seeds per packet vary, with open-pollinated selections having the fewest and sugary enhanced varieties with shrunken seeds the most.
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.
If you have trouble with crows pulling up seedlings, try Bird-Scaring Balloons (see 8820) 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.
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 (8061-73); 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. Less sweet than modern hybrids, open-pollinated varieties also do not hold as long, and will come back into vogue only if taste preferences change.
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.
A new breeding frontier for sweet corn? Increasing its levels of beta carotene—the more orange the kernel the greater the beta carotene content.
We randomly test sweet corn seed for transgenic contamination.
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.
The corn smut fungus Ustilago maydis, formerly scorned, is increasingly considered a great delicacy. Huitlacoche, as it is known in Latin America, is featured in fine restaurants. In a test of 350 hybrid corns, the University of Illinois found that #658 Silver Queen is one of the best for producing large clusters of smut galls.
According to Robert Kourik in Roots Demystified (ISBN 978-0961584832), corn develops an amaizing root system. By the time a plant has just eight leaves, it has produced 15–23 main roots and an astonishing 8,000–10,000 lateral roots.
Anne Elder of Community Farm of Ann Arbor was quoted in The New York Times saying that “when kids visit the farm, we give them cornstalks to chew.” Like sugar cane, cornstalks contain sweet juice.
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°.
Ornamental And Dry Field Corn
All open-pollinated. Days to maturity are for dry stage.
Pest: corn earworm
Cultural controls: use resistant varieties with tight husks such as #541 Bodacious R/M or #658 Silver Queen, choose short-season varieties, release trichogramma wasps. (Beneficial insects are available from Beneficial Insectary at insectary.com or 800-477-3715.)
Material controls: Bt Kurstaki (Dipel 8902-8906), 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, Spinosad