Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Corn Classifications and What They Mean to your Home Vegetable Garden

A very interesting post on our vegetable gardening Facebook page a few days ago got me thinking. See, I take most home vegetable gardening tricks and tips for granted because I have been doing it for so long. I am by no means the greatest to ever grow corn, but I can hold my own. So when Lisa posted the question, “Can I plant any variety of corn together?”, I had to step back and think for a second if that were possible. The answer in short is no as you will see when I get into the genetic classification parts.

Corn has become such a mainstay in our very lives here in the United States and many other countries around the world. We use it for food, not for only ourselves but for livestock; some use it for fuel, while other companies use it to create corn syrup. It has a tremendous amount of benefits that go beyond spreading some butter on an ear and digging in at your yearly holiday barbecue. Let’s take a look at the genetic classifications of corn, so that the next time you plant it in your home vegetable garden you will increase your chances of a successful harvest.

There are three main genetic classes for corn and they are (su), (se) and (sh). They represent normal sugary corn (su), sugary enhanced corn (se) and extra sweets or shrunken (sh). The corn you consume form your supermarket is more than likely the (su) variety. This type of corn tastes best if you can pick it and cook it the same day. For best results you should avoid planting (su) near field corn.

Sugary enhanced (se), has been genetically modified to increase the corn’s sugar content. It also retains moisture better which makes for a better tasting kernel. These varieties should also be planted away from field type corns. If you buy a sweet gene hybrid they are more than likely closely related to the (se) variety.

The third classification, (sh), or shrunken, is super sweet. This is the corn type that has been genetically modified to raise the levels of complex sugars so their sweetness flavors will be increased. Moisture retention is much higher in the kernels of this corn which invariably gives the (sh) variety a tremendous shelf life. The (sh) variety should be isolated from ALL other types of corn in order to maintain their quality.

What does isolation mean when it comes to making sure you do not mix and match corn types that should be away from one another? According to the USDA, “isolation can either mean at least 250 ft. apart, separated by an effective wind break, or 10 to 14 days difference in maturity because corn is wind pollinated.” Now that is a mouthful. Just plant like kind varieties together and you should be ok.

Now that you know the basics of what to look for when you buy your corn seeds (from us of course), follow the tips of the genetic classifications above and you will be well on your way to increasing your corn harvest.

About the Author
Mike is the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook and the very popular Seeds of the Month Club. You can now join the Seeds of the Month Club risk-free.

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