Planting sweet corn near a farm growing field corn?

nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)April 24, 2011

Our property borders a farm field that usually planted with field corn most years. I would like to grow a patch of sweet corn, but was concerned that the cross-pollination would result in inedible cobs in my garden.

Right now, I'm thinking that I could:

a) plant a very early-maturing variety and hope that they tassel out before the field corn, or plant them later so that they tassel after the field corn for late-season cobs

b) start corn seedlings indoors to achieve the same results as option A but with a wider option of varieties to select from

c) try to find a variety that will not cross-pollinate with field corn

Does anyone have any other suggestions? thanks!

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jolj(7b/8a)

Unless you are worried about GE corn, I see no problem.
My father always planted 4 acres of field corn in early Spring.
Then would plant sweet corn when he planted the beans & tomatoes.
The field corn came in or was ready before the sweet corn. We would eat the field corn & give a mess or two to friends.
I can not tell the differences myself.But I like wild grape as much as the store bought ones too.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 12:57AM
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barrie2m_

The liklihood of having tough, starchy kernels is minimal. Many farmers stick a few rows of sweet corn in end rows so that they will have sweet corn to eat as well. Even a buffer zone of 10-15 feet will also help to avoid the field corn polinating your sweet corn.
If a few kernels do end up starchy no big deal. Some of the older varieties of sweet corn that my farming parents grew, IoChief and Silver Qween reminded me of eating field corn compared to the newer more tender varieties.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 8:02AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Many sweet corn varieties pollinate a bit sooner than field corn. I have field corn adjacent to me every other year and field corn across the road the other years...so I know first hand.

I sow sweet corn earlier and right through field corn planting and after field corn planting. What you want to do is this: If you have a planting pollinating while the field corn planting is pollinating, go out and shake your stalks daily at the first hint of pollen on your sweet corn. Do this for 4 days in a row.

If you get 1 grain on of cross pollination on just a few ears, that is tolerable, but more than that is just not ok...the starchy cross grains are the pits for flavor and texture.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 8:53AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

The whole idea is that when a field of corn is pollinating when your sweet corn is pollinating, is to get yours pollinated first with sweet corn pollen.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 9:23AM
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ldj1002(8b)

It will not effect it at all. What it will effect is if you save seed and plant next year. What you get may be different. It is the same as, say you are raising pure bred dogs and the female gets bred by another breed. It will not effect her but it will her pups.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 9:40AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Only certain varieties of sweet corn will have their flavor affected by a nearby field corn planting. These are the ones labeled "super-sweet," "sugar-enhanced," etc. That's why some of the advice above is incorrect -- though it would be true for "ordinary" vegetables (and non-enhanced varieties of sweet corn, for that matter).

You could try timing your planting to avoid cross-pollination, but I wouldn't rely on starting indoors; direct-sown corn catches up quickly to transplanted.

Or simply plant a variety of sweet corn that doesn't become starchy if cross-pollinated. Some people prefer these; their disadvantage is that the corn must be eaten very quickly after harvest, while the enhanced varieties can keep their sugar for days.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sweet corn

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:57AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I don't believe I would want any of my sweet corn pollinated by field corn.

What I have tried to say is that I raise the sweet corn right through those times of potential crossing and avoid it nearly entirely.

When you eat the seeds of your crop...like corn, the fl;avor is fully affected that first season by cross=pollinating.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 2:15PM
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ldj1002(8b)

Again it won't affect it. You hear tails about water mellons crossing with cuks or hot peppers and sweet peppers, etc. It will only affect their offspring, not the developing plant or seed. Another example is pecan trees. You have several varieties close by and they are cross pollinated with each other. It doesn't affect the pecans at all in taste or looks or any other way. However you plant one of the pecans and it will just be a guess of what kind of a pecan that tree will produce.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 3:47PM
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farmerdill

Corn is quite different. Cross pollination affects the seed which you eat. Example if you plant a white and a yellow side by side (same DTM) you get a bicolor. The Supersweets are critical, because when cross pollinated they become rubbery. That said, Sweet corns have DTM's of 65-90 days. Field corn usually 120-130 days. so you can get most sweet corns harvested before the field corn comes into play. Concur with Wayne, no problem as long as you plan your planting time appropriately.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 4:09PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

ldj1002:

You are basically right about every fruit, vegetable, and nut I've ever heard about except sweetcorn. You should read up about sweetcorn isolation requirements. Some, but not all sweetcorn types, do need isolation to maintain eating quality.

In fruits and nuts the size of the fruit or nut can be affected but I've not heard of quality differences.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 5:25PM
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jolj(7b/8a)

Have you eaten field corn, do you know how tender & sweet young field corn can be?
This whole thread is news to me.
Never know what you will learn on garden web!
Thanks for education.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 6:20PM
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ldj1002(8b)

OK, I did read about isolation never heard of such a thing as pollination affecting this year crop other than not getting fruit and then that is because of not being pollinated. It has NEVER happened to me and I am 72 years old. I have field corn grown all around me and I won't worry about it. They talked about the distance for isolation and it was very small distance 250' for little contamination and 700' for none. I used to work for seed farm that grew seed corn and milo. No way is 700' enough to prevent cross pollination. So I know that some of that article is wrong then I doubt all of it. OH I guess that seed company I worked for could have been wrong and wasted lots of money to keep other corn away much greater distance than that.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 10:30AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

ldj1002,

It really comes down to how pure the seed company wanted to keep their strains of corn.

I have had my sweet corn somewhat cross pollinated by corn from across the road...about 240 feet away. Granted that most years this would not happen, but if the wind and pollination of both corns were timed just right, it can and does happen.

If I get even one grain of my sweet corn crossed by field corn, that grain stands out like a sore thumb and that starchy thing tastes even worse.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 3:23PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The thing with corn is that we are EATING the seed. In the other veggies, we eat the flesh and harvest the seed for future planting. The kernels are the pups.

It is a physiological fact that corn, if the male and female parts mature at the same time, can cross pollinate readily. The differences in the varieties will be expressed in the seed. All of the genetic traits (like those pups you mentioned) can be tossed into the mix. Some traits are more dominant than others.

Sweet corn cross-pollinates readily with field corn, pop corn, and other sweet corn hybrids.

72 is not too young to learn something new, I hope! ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: click for some good information

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 4:13PM
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