A Comparison of the Growth, Establishment, and Maturity of Direct-seeded and Transplanted sh2 Sweet Corn

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327

Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) cultivars containing the shrunken-2 (sh2) gene have superior kernel quality but often germinate poorly and display poor seedling vigor. The transplanting of sh2 sweet corn was investigated as a method to improve stand establishment and hasten maturity. Three-week-old plants (sh2 cv. Krispy King) were raised in 200-cell polystyrene trays in either plug-trays (PT), float beds (FB), or ebb-and-flood (EF) production systems and compared with direct-seeded (DS) controls for transplant quality, successful establishment, and early harvest. In 1994, when plants were established in early June, PT plants matured 1 week earlier than DS and FB plants, which had similar mean times to harvest. In 1995, when field planting occurred in July, all plants flowered prematurely when only 60 cm tall. In 1996, the experiment was begun in early May, and survival of all transplants was >85% vs. 54% for DS plants. In 1996, transplants matured 10 to 13 days earlier than DS plants, however, >90% of DS plants produced marketable ears vs. 63%, 49%, and 44% of EF, FB, and PT plants, respectively. The DS plants were also taller with better root development than transplants in all years. Transplants produced smaller, lower-quality ears than did DS plants, thus nullifying the benefits of greater plant populations and earlier maturity. The EF system produced high-quality seedlings because of the greater control of water availability during seedling development. In some areas, the increased value of early sh2 sweet corn may be worth the additional cost of transplanting and greater percentage of unmarketable ears.

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