Better sweet corn research, better production
The challenge in getting the necessary data is the costs associated with the equipment and labor, according to Williams.
In order to collect information on fresh kernel mass, Williams and his team designed and built a portable, “mini-processing plant” that they use in the field at harvest to husk ears and cut fresh kernels.
“At the moment there isn’t a viable alternative that’s less expensive,” he said. “Does the research community continue to report mediocre data, or do we invest in an approach that gives the sweet corn industry exactly what it needs to make use of our research?”
Another obstacle is the narrow window of time when sweet corn is harvested, usually by hand, for research. Though field corn for grain production is harvested at physiological maturity, sweet corn is harvested at the R3 stage (milk stage), while kernel moisture is at approximately 72 to 76 percent. “When sweet corn is ripe, waiting is not an option,” Williams explained.
A change in the way sweet corn research is done will have an impact on how processors, growers, and seed companies make decisions in the future, according to the researcher.
“Applied research aimed at improving crop productivity is predicated on the ability to accurately measure important crop responses, such as yield. For processing sweet corn, the most important responses include recovery and case production,” he said. “Those of us in the research community can’t expect the sweet corn industry to adopt our research-based findings when we’re failing to measure what’s truly important.”
“Few crop traits accurately predict variables important to productivity of processing sweet corn,” is published in the February 2014 issue of Field Crop Research and can be accessed online at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378429013004073.
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