Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) has been identified as the compound responsible for the characteristic aroma of cooked sweet corn (Zea mays L.) and, along with sugar and water-soluble polysaccharides, is one of the main flavor components in the kernels. Because of the close relationship between DMS and its amino acid precursor S-methylmethionine, the premise was formulated that it might be possible to improve sweet corn aroma and overall eating quality through enhanced production of DMS from increased application of N and S to the crop in the field. Studies were conducted on a Plainfield sand and a Flanagan silt loam to evaluate the effects of N and S fertilization on kernel DMS production in several commercial sh2 hybrids; in the process, the effect of N and S fertilization on various yield and yield component parameters was also determined. Hybrid was the main factor affecting kernel DMS production, although in both soils kernel DMS levels were influenced by significant interactions between hybrid and fertilizer treatments. Kernel DMS content, in response to increasing N fertilization rates, increased by an average of 85% in three of six hybrids in the Plainfield sand and by 60% in two of three hybrids in the Flanagan silt loam. The effect of S fertilization on kernel DMS production was small, with only one hybrid on the sandy soil showing a positive response (38%) to S application, and then in combination with high N rates. Irrespective of N-S fertilization regime, kernel DMS concentrations decreased at both locations by an average of ≈8.5% per day as kernel maturity increased. The results showed that kernel DMS production may be enhanced by N nutrition, independent of N fertilization effects on ear and kernel yields.
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