As of 2012, Pennsylvania was ranked 10th in the United State for fresh market sweet corn production. Forty-eight percent (1898 farms) of Pennsylvania growers produce sweet corn on 12,715 acres [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2014]. Growers at the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, an annual grower meeting of about 2200 fruit and vegetable growers and industry representatives, ranked sweet corn second among vegetable crops warranting research efforts to maintain profitability (Sánchez et al., 2012). Additionally, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, representing the interests of Pennsylvania growers, funded this project.
In Pennsylvania, bicolor sweet corn cultivars predominate production; however, areas exist where white cultivars dominate including in the southeastern part of the state. Conversations with seed company representatives indicate that the seed industry is moving toward more synergistic offerings. Compared with su, se, and sh2 cultivars, synergistic cultivars are generally thought to have the best flavor, texture, and aroma; and have high sugar content. Past sweet corn cultivar evaluations have focused on different genetics (Kleinhenz, 2003; Simmone et al., 1999).
When selecting cultivars, ear quality is as important as marketable yield for profitability. Consumers are first attracted ear appearance, while taste can result in repeat purchases. In most U.S. markets, consumers prefer an 8- to 9-inch ear with a dark green husk, long and dark green flag leaf, and 16 straight rows of small deep and sweet kernels filled to the tip of the ear (Tracy, 2001). In addition to yield and ear quality, the ease or difficulty in hand harvesting may be another consideration when selecting cultivars. While many growers harvest mechanically in Pennsylvania, many also harvest by hand.
The objective of this research was to evaluate bicolor and white synergistic sweet corn cultivars to develop recommendations for fresh, direct market growers in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region.
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