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. Today’s hybrids have been developed for conditions that are different from those found on most organic farms. 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. Those older varieties were not sweet by today’s standards. This project involves increasing sweetness levels in open pollinated corn.
The method I document under this grant is suited to on-farm corn improvement, and is within the capabilities of gardeners or farmers. It is particularly suited to the development or improvement of open pollinated varieties, as it maintains maximum heterozygosity, but could also be used as a prelude to an inbreeding program to develop more organic-friendly hybrids in the future.
Work under this grant will increase and improve options for growers of organic sweet corn. This project is farmer/breeder initiated, designed and executed. We seek to establish two open pollinated (op), sugary enhanced (se), sweet corn varieties (Top Hat and Tuxana), and document a protocol for selecting sweeter kernels from crosses with older varieties. We will repeat selection for sweetness in two additional, related varieties, and select for sweetness and greater uniformity in Anasazi sweet corn.
The actual selection for sweetness on these two varieties is occurring in 2011 and 2012. Trials, sponsored by Cornell University and the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) will begin in 2012 and 2013 and include both Top Hat and Tuxana, so evaluation of these lines is beginning. In 2013 and 2014, we should learn if kernel selection has been successful in creating uniform sweetness.
A final project report will be posted upon completion.