Very little sweet corn grown commercially today is open pollinated. Farmers who wish to save their own seed have few if any good choices of varieties to grow. And the hybrids of today have been developed for conditions that are different from those found on most organic farms, as they were selected to rely on fungicides and pesticides, and to effectively utilize soluble synthetic fertilizers in large quantities. Organic sweet corn growers deserve better choices.
Our best source of organic-friendly agronomic traits often comes from old varieties developed before the pesticides, fertilizers and other aspects of what we now call conventional agriculture were available. However, those older varieties were not sweet by today’s standards. This project involves increasing sweetness levels in open pollinated corn, and stabilizing a cross between an ancient corn and a modern corn to create new corn varieties.
This research is now in its fourth year under OFRF’s research grants program, and is leading to the development of Top Hat and Tuxana sweet corn. Seed from the f6 generation will be planted in 2014; this corn will be evaluated, and seed may be offered for sale at the end of 2014 under license from the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI). Evaluation of these 2014 crops will determine if and what additional selection or breeding is warranted. Breeding in the other (yellow and multi-colored) lines began in 2013; these will require more time before release.
There are four varieties-in-progress being grown under this grant:
- Top Hat is f6 seed from the de-hybridization of Tuxedo, a commercial hybrid variety
- Tuxana is f6 white corn selected from the cross “Anasazi x Tuxedo.”
- Tux yellow (f5) is the working name for yellow corn selected from the same cross
- Tux multi (f5) is the working name for multi-colored (with red and blue) corn selected from the same cross.
This is on-farm corn improvement, and is within the capabilities of gardeners and farmers anywhere corn can be grown. Half sibling evaluations (“ear-to-row” in corn) is suited to the development or improvement of open pollinated varieties of any outcrossing species.
Work under this grant will increase and improve options for growers of organic sweet corn. This project is farmer/breeder initiated, designed, and executed.