Asian crops can provide growers with a means to diversify crop production and marketing options. However, before expanding into Asian crops, growers should determine consumer expectations regarding a new crop. Existing market criteria for each crop (i.e., maturity, color, size, shape) must be considered for all markets including traditional Asian use as well as for the general North American market. If growers decide to target general consumers in North America, then consumer awareness and acceptance must be addressed in a marketing and promotion program. Extension publications, popular magazines, and newspapers are useful tools in a marketing and promotion program. Crop production information must be available to enable growers to successfully produce Asian crops. Yet, most growers are unlikely to invest heavily in new production equipment and systems until a market has been established for the crop. It is a challenge for university scientists and extension agents to concurrently create supply and demand for new Asian crops. To accomplish this, multidisciplinary teams that include university and community experts should initiate a diversified program of Asian crop production, promotion, and marketing.
Carol A. Miles and D. Gayle Alleman
Fresh baby corn is an ideal niche market crop. It is easy to produce and is growing in popularity in the U.S. In 1997 and 1998, we tested 10 corn varieties to determine suitability for fresh baby-corn production in western Washington. By harvesting ears 1 to 3 days after silk emergence, baby corn can be produced from many common sweet corn varieties, including `Kandy King', `Bodacious', `Tendertreat', and `Custer'. Ear quality characteristics such as length, width, and kernel size and appearance of these common sweet corn varieties were as good as for the variety Baby Corn, a specialty variety produced exclusively for baby corn. The corn variety GH2283, produced in the U.S. for sale of seed to Asia for baby-corn production, produced the best-quality baby corn ears in our trial. Using an in-row spacing of 2 inches, ears of baby corn can be harvested for 4 to 6 weeks, depending on variety, from a single planting. Market criteria for baby corn are 2 to 4 inches long and 1/3 to 2/3 inch in diameter at the butt end. Delaying harvest of sweet corn varieties for 3 days resulted in ears that were too large for baby corn. Field corn varieties in this trial required close monitoring to meet size criteria and delaying harvest 1 to 2 days resulted in ears that were too large. Harvest of baby corn is all by hand and height of the ear on the plant significantly affects ease of harvest, where dwarf varieties are the least easy to harvest.