Choosing The Right Sweet Corn Hybrids

Keepin' It Sweet

Although it’s a common practice to study plant populations in field corn, University of Illinois associate professor of crop sciences and USDA-ARS ecologist Marty Williams, said almost no research exists for determining the number of plants needed to optimize yield in processing sweet corn, which accounts for most of the U.S. sweet corn acreage.
“The only published results on this subject took place in the mid-1960s on the varieties Golden Cross Bantam and Jubilee,” Williams said. “Today those hybrids are 79 and 50 years old, respectively. The sweet corn industry, both growers and processors, needs relevant information on modern varieties to help them achieve maximum profits.”
The priorities of processing sweet corn are quite different than fresh-market sweet corn, he said.
“Unlike fresh-market sweet corn, ear size and appearance don’t really matter in processing sweet corn,” Williams said. “What’s important is how many cases of sweet corn are produced per acre.”
Because of this, fresh-market sweet corn research simply doesn’t apply since different hybrids are used and different traits are important. In 2009, the Midwest Food Processors Association asked Williams to conduct research on the relationship between plant populations and profitability in processing sweet corn. 
So where does yield peak for processing sweet corn, and what plant population does it take to get there?
The answer is not that simple. Williams evaluated six widely used hybrids from Del Monte, Syngenta Seeds, and Crookham Company. The hybrids were planted under a wide range of plant populations and growing conditions.
“We looked at relationships among different crop traits and found that increasing plant populations affected crop growth and development in plausible ways,” he said. “Increasing plant populations increased canopy density and light capture, delayed silk emergence, and reduced filled ear length and recovery.”
Recovery, or the percentage of ear mass that’s represented by kernel mass, was surprisingly varied and ranged between 32% to 38% among hybrids, he said. Higher recovery reduces processors’ costs because less volume of corn is handled.
Across all environments, plant populations to maximize yield differed by more than 9,000 plants per acre among the hybrids. 
The average plant population of the six hybrids — 23,500 plants per acre — would not be enough to maximize yield for some varieties, but would be too much for others, Williams said. None of the hybrids came close to optimal plant populations of field corn, which in recent reports from the upper Midwest, range from 32,000 to 35,000 plants per acre.
“The sweet corn hybrid itself has a major effect on profitability,” he said. “The gross profit margin to processors varied $1,500 an acre among hybrids. If I were growing sweet corn under contract, I’d want to know the hybrid, since profit to the grower varied as much $211 per acre among the varieties we tested.” 
One of the challenges Williams noted was that the top-performing hybrids looked nothing alike, nor was it clear exactly why they had better stress tolerance to higher populations. More research is needed to provide sweet corn breeders with this information.
“We compared these results to plant populations observed in growers’ fields throughout Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin,” Williams said. “We found evidence that higher profit, to growers and processors alike, is possible with greater plant populations of certain hybrids.”
This study, “Agronomics and economics of plant population density on processing sweet corn,” was funded by USDA-ARS and published in Field Crops Research. 

Although it’s a common practice to study plant populations in field corn, University of Illinois associate professor of crop sciences and USDA-ARS ecologist Marty Williams, said almost no research exists for determining the number of plants needed to optimize yield in processing sweet corn, which accounts for most of the U.S. sweet corn acreage.

“The only published results on this subject took place in the mid-1960s on the varieties Golden Cross Bantam and Jubilee,” Williams said. “Today those hybrids are 79 and 50 years old, respectively. The sweet corn industry, both growers and processors, needs relevant information on modern varieties to help them achieve maximum profits.”

The priorities of processing sweet corn are quite different than fresh-market sweet corn, he said.

“Unlike fresh-market sweet corn, ear size and appearance don’t really matter in processing sweet corn,” Williams said. “What’s important is how many cases of sweet corn are produced per acre.”

Because of this, fresh-market sweet corn research simply doesn’t apply since different hybrids are used and different traits are important. In 2009, the Midwest Food Processors Association asked Williams to conduct research on the relationship between plant populations and profitability in processing sweet corn. 

So where does yield peak for processing sweet corn, and what plant population does it take to get there?

The answer is not that simple. Williams evaluated six widely used hybrids from Del Monte, Syngenta Seeds, and Crookham Company. The hybrids were planted under a wide range of plant populations and growing conditions.

“We looked at relationships among different crop traits and found that increasing plant populations affected crop growth and development in plausible ways,” he said. “Increasing plant populations increased canopy density and light capture, delayed silk emergence, and reduced filled ear length and recovery.”

Recovery, or the percentage of ear mass that’s represented by kernel mass, was surprisingly varied and ranged between 32% to 38% among hybrids, he said. Higher recovery reduces processors’ costs because less volume of corn is handled.

Across all environments, plant populations to maximize yield differed by more than 9,000 plants per acre among the hybrids. 

The average plant population of the six hybrids — 23,500 plants per acre — would not be enough to maximize yield for some varieties, but would be too much for others, Williams said. None of the hybrids came close to optimal plant populations of field corn, which in recent reports from the upper Midwest, range from 32,000 to 35,000 plants per acre.

“The sweet corn hybrid itself has a major effect on profitability,” he said. “The gross profit margin to processors varied $1,500 an acre among hybrids. If I were growing sweet corn under contract, I’d want to know the hybrid, since profit to the grower varied as much $211 per acre among the varieties we tested.” 

One of the challenges Williams noted was that the top-performing hybrids looked nothing alike, nor was it clear exactly why they had better stress tolerance to higher populations. More research is needed to provide sweet corn breeders with this information.

“We compared these results to plant populations observed in growers’ fields throughout Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin,” Williams said. “We found evidence that higher profit, to growers and processors alike, is possible with greater plant populations of certain hybrids.”

This study, “Agronomics and economics of plant population density on processing sweet corn,” was funded by USDA-ARS and published in Field Crops Research. 

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Choosing The Right Sweet Corn Hybrids

Featured Stories
Apples On Display
Fruits
February 6, 2016
Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinion]
Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs. It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God Read More
RosBREED will have an impact on nearly all the major U.S. rosaceous crop production areas.
Fruits
February 6, 2016
RosBREED: A National Effort To Improve The Fruit Industry
The project focuses on improving disease resistance and fruit quality through better genetics and breeding. Read More
Biofungicides supplement methyl bromide alternatives
Berries
February 5, 2016
Moving Beyond Methyl Bromide With Biofungicides
Editor’s note: University of California Farm Advisor Mark Bolda will present much more information on this topic at the Biocontrols Read More
Geotextiles being installed.

Photo: Jim Willwerth
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Geotextiles Can Help Prevent Winter Grapevine Damage
Although Northeast and Midwest grape growing regions have so far been spared from extreme cold this year, the winters of Read More
The canopy of the vines that received the under-canopy sprinkler irrigation just on hot nights during heatwaves appear to be healthier than the control vines and have a higher yield.
Photo: Michael McCarthy
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Researchers Test New Method To Mitigate Vine Heat Stress
The use of evaporative cooling in vineyards during hot weather isn’t a new concept, but researchers in Australia are testing Read More
Biocontrols USA 2016 logo
Crop Protection
February 5, 2016
Register Now For Biocontrols Conference 2016 Field And Greenhouse Tour
Space is limited, so register now to attend the first-ever Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference Field and Greenhouse Tour. Following the Read More
La Crescent produces a good quality white wine with apricot-like flavor. The off-dry, sweet white wine pairs well with appetizers, seafood and chicken. La Crescent has excellent winter hardiness with moderate disease resistance that requires a standard spray program.
Grapes
February 4, 2016
Northern Grapes Project Fuels A Market For Cold-Hardy Grapes
 There’s a burgeoning market for cold-weather grapes. The Northern Grapes Project, funded in 2011 by a USDA National Institute of Read More
two glass goblets of olive oil
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s Slipping Citrus Trade?
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Sunkist organic lemons being harvested at the Donlon Ranch in Ventura County, CA by Jane and Ned Donlon, 5th and 6th generation growers, respectively.
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
money
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
February 6, 2016
Best Research Is Industry Driven [Opinio…
Like many of you, I’m not crazy about a lot of government programs. It’s not that their genesis isn’t noble; God Read More
Fruits
February 6, 2016
RosBREED: A National Effort To Improve T…
The project focuses on improving disease resistance and fruit quality through better genetics and breeding. Read More
Berries
February 5, 2016
Moving Beyond Methyl Bromide With Biofun…
Editor’s note: University of California Farm Advisor Mark Bolda will present much more information on this topic at the Biocontrols Read More
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Geotextiles Can Help Prevent Winter Grap…
Although Northeast and Midwest grape growing regions have so far been spared from extreme cold this year, the winters of Read More
Grapes
February 5, 2016
Researchers Test New Method To Mitigate …
The use of evaporative cooling in vineyards during hot weather isn’t a new concept, but researchers in Australia are testing Read More
Crop Protection
February 5, 2016
Register Now For Biocontrols Conference …
Space is limited, so register now to attend the first-ever Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference Field and Greenhouse Tour. Following the Read More
Grapes
February 4, 2016
Northern Grapes Project Fuels A Market F…
 There’s a burgeoning market for cold-weather grapes. The Northern Grapes Project, funded in 2011 by a USDA National Institute of Read More
Citrus
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s…
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Sunkist Expands Organic Portfolio
With the organic citrus sector growing three times as fast as conventional, the 123-year-old cooperative is keeping up with the times. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Syngenta OKs Buyout By ChemChina
Deal valued at more than $43 billion; Syngenta management team to stay intact. Read More
Farm Marketing
February 3, 2016
Florida Peach Marketing Order Fails
Growers don’t meet 65% approval needed for passage. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Western Growers Launches Tech Talk Serie…
Speakers from a variety of agricultural technology areas will make presentations on a variety of topics including drone/satellite imagery and food safety software. Read More
Farm Management
February 3, 2016
Hot Topics Tackled At Mid-Atlantic Fruit…
Food safety and GMOs were two of the topics discussed on the first day of the trade show and conference. Read More
Citrus
February 3, 2016
Historic Rainfall Hampering South Florid…
El Niño express delivering floods, uncertainty for crops. Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Avoid Tree Nut Cargo Theft
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® recently reported on a rash of nut thefts, in which truckloads of nuts Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Tips To Help Secure A Good Beekeeper Agr…
Pollination is one of the most important aspects of almond growing, and this time of year, making sure you have Read More
Apples & Pears
February 2, 2016
Fine Americas Introduces Next Generation…
New formulation of Exilis 9.5 SC is five times more concentrated than previous product; it's also easier to pour, handle. Read More
Fruits
February 2, 2016
EPA Releases List Of Products Labeled Fo…
Agency gives recommendations on products to protect hives against parasites. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]