California Corn

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Californians love their corn. Sweet corn is celebrated annually in corn festivals in La Habra, at Davis Ranch and Brentwood.

610,000 acres down 20% Corn in California 2012

Commodity Value Corn is America's most important cash crop, with more than 87 million harvested acres generating a crop value of $47.38 billion in 2008. Most of California's corn crop is harvested to use as silage, which is fed to dairy cows and other ruminant animals.


Top Producing Counties California produces 16 percent
of the nation's sweet corn, ranking number two in the U.S.
Corn, Sweet 48 115,863 Imperial 33.2 Fresno 28.1 San Joaquin 12.8 Contra Costa 11.4 Riverside 9.7

California corn for grain production was valued at $182 million for 2010, which was a 48% increase from 2009. Harvested acreage, yield and price all increased from the previous year. Harvested acreage increased 13% to 180,000 acres; yield increased 8% and price increased by 21% . Harvested acres of corn silage increased by 10% to 425,000 acres. Production of corn silage increased to 11 million tons, up 13% from 2009.

In 2007, California harvested 200,000 acres of corn for grain,
valued at $158 million. The same year, the state harvested
445,000 acres of corn for silage.

The leading counties corn production in 2007 Fresno for sweet corn
San Joaquin for grain corn Tulare for silage corn.

Nutritional Value Corn has four major elements: starch,
protein, oil and fiber. One cup of white corn has 130 calories,
two grams of fat, five grams of protein, 29 grams of carbohydrates,
four grams of fiber and no cholesterol. Oil from the germ or embryo of the kernel is rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeanthin, which are associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases. Fructose (from cornstarch) is a sweetner that helps the body utilize protein.
For additional information:

CORN PRODUCTION
The corn plant has a stalk, and ears of corn grow where the leaves join the stalk.

CORN HISTORY
The corn you buy in the store is different from the plant that scientists believe corn originated from thousands of years ago. The most prevalent scientific theory is that corn was first developed from a wild grass called teosinte and looked much like grass and not the golden vegetable so many people love today. Early civilizations created corn hybrids by crosspollinating plants from different varieties.

PRODUCTION AREAS
California has four main production areas for sweet corn
(Zea mays): the southern desert valleys (Riverside and
Imperial Counties); the south coast (San Diego, Orange,
and Santa Barbara Counties); the Central Valley (Contra
Costa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, and
Fresno Counties); and the central coast (San Benito, Santa
Clara, and Alameda Counties).

SEASONS

In addition to these areas, most counties produce some sweet corn for direct marketing at roadside stands and farmers' markets. In the southern desert valleys, planting occurs from January to March and in August for harvest in May through early June and November through early December. In the south coast, planting occurs from February through July for harvest from June through October. In the Central Valley, planting occurs from February through July for harvest in June through October. In the central coast, planting occurs from February through June for harvest in July through October.

CLIMATIC REQUIREMENTS
Temperatures for optimal germination of sweet corn seed are 65F and above. Optimal temperatures for growth are 60 to 75F, with 50F as a minimum and 95F as a maximum.

VARIETIES
Sweet corn varieties are either yellow (y), white (w), or bicolor. In recent years there have been great changes in the varieties of sweet corn grown in the state. There are three genetic classes of sweet corn: standard endosperm (SU), sugar enhanced (SE), and supersweet (SH) The SU types include Jubilee (y), Silver Queen (w), and 2327 (y). These varieties are not as sweet as the SE and SH types and convert sugar to starch more quickly than SH types. The use of SU varieties has declined as the sweeter SE and SH types have received more favor in the market.

However, SU types yield well and have vigorous germination and as a result are used mostly in the early part of the planting season when seed is being planted in cold soils. The SE varieties, which include Miracle (y), Bodacious (y), and Sweetie 82 (y), have a higher sugar content than SU varieties. Their rate of conversion of sugar to starch is the same, and they are best if eaten within 1 to 2 days after harvest. They are used extensively in roadside and direct marketing. The SH varieties, which include 3680B (w), Aspen (w), Challenger (y), and Supersweet Jubilee (y), contain twice the sugar content of the SU varieties and the rate of conversion of sugar to starch is slower, extending postharvest quality. These characteristics have given SH varieties widespread acceptance by consumers. These varieties generally have poor germination in cold soils due to smaller, weaker seed. This characteristic reduces their use early in the season, although progress has been made in improving the germination characteristics of the SH varieties.

PLANTING TECHNIQUES
A wide variety of field configurations is used for planting. Bed widths range from 30 to 66 inches, with one or two rows of plants per bed; in-row plant spacing ranges from 7 to 10 inches (17.525 cm). In the central and south coasts, sweet corn is usually grown in rows 36 to 40 inches (90100 cm) apart. In the southern deserts, sweet corn is usually grown on beds 36 to 40 inches wide oriented east to west and slanted to the south to increase warming and improve germination. In the Central Valley, early sweet corn is produced by planting the seed in a small trough on a bed that is covered with a sheet of clear plastic held taut with soil along the edges. The plastic provides rapid heating.

SOILS
A variety of soil textures are used for sweet corn production. Sandy soils are preferred for early plantings because they warm rapidly in the spring. Heavier soils are productive, provided they are well drained and irrigated with care.

IRRIGATION
Statewide, most sweet corn is furrow-irrigated. However, significant acreage is drip-irrigated, usually with buried systems; the tape is buried 6 to 8 inches deep in a permanent bed system. Some growers use drip tape on the surface of the beds. In cool weather, seed can be successfully mulch-planted into preirrigated soil. Under warm, dry conditions irrigation may be required for stand establishment. Summer plantings in the interior valleys require more water than early spring plantings or crops grown on the coast. Irrigation frequency varies with the soil type and irrigation system used. The crop must not be stressed for moisture at any time during the growth cycle to achieve maximum yield. The pollination period is especially sensitive to water stress, which may
result in poor kernel formation.

FERTILIZATION
Sweet corn requires about 200 pounds per acre of nitrogen (N) for early spring plantings and 100 pounds per acre (112 kg/ha) of N for later plantings. Growers generally apply 30 to 50 pounds per acre of N preplant and the remainder as a sidedress when the corn is 12 to 15 inches tall.

POLLINATION
Good pollination is necessary for proper ear development. The pollen falls from the tassels and is carried by wind or gravity to the silks. Fertilized silks stop growing and begin to dry. Hot weather above 90F (32C), dry winds, or dry soil can cause pollination irregularities in which the kernels may not develop evenly on the ear.

INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT
Integrated pest management (IPM) information is continually being developed for weed, insect, and disease problems in California sweet corn. Cultural control methods such as mechanical cultivation, field sanitation, good drainage, and irrigation management to avoid excessively wet soils are important components of IPM that help minimize the use of chemical controls. Herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides should always be used in compliance with label instructions.

Weed management. A number of cultural, mechani cal, and chemical measures can be taken to control weeds in sweet corn. Preirrigation and subsequent cultivation are useful, as is cultivation after stand establishment. After the crop has emerged, piling soil at the base of the corn plants can bury young weeds; as the crop grows, subsequent weed growth is inhibited by shading. In addition, a number of effective registered herbicides are available.

HARVESTING AND HANDLING
Sweet corn is ready to pick when each seed on the cob is filled and mature. Although mechanical pickers exist, most sweet corn in California is picked by hand. Hand- picked sweet corn is subject to less damage, although improvements in mechanical pickers have decreased damage to the ears. Corn picked for direct marketing is usually picked into bins. Corn picked for shipping is picked onto a packing trailer and packed into 50-pound (22.7-kg), 48-count, waxed cardboard boxes. Fields grown for shipping are usually picked for market once, but the fields may be subsequently gleaned for sales of number 2 (second picking) ears in direct marketing. Corn yields vary widely depending upon the stand, growing conditions, weather, and marketing channels. In general, a yield of 350 to 500 48-count boxes per acre (8751,250 per ha) would be considered good.

POSTHARVEST HANDLING
Sweet corn should be cooled as quickly as possible after picking to maintain quality and sweetness. By lowering the temperature, the conversion of sugar to starch is con- siderably slowed but not stopped. The loss of sugar is about 4 times as rapid at 50F (10C) than at 32F (0C). Sweet corn picked for shipping is hydrocooled and the boxes are injected with liquid ice. In the Coachella Valley sweet corn is generally harvested at night when the ears are cool. The quality of sweet corn picked for direct marketing can also benefit by picking early in the day when the ears are cool and keeping them out of the sun and as cool as possible before selling them.

MARKETING
Sweet corn is actively marketed in direct-marketing
channels such as farmers' markets, roadside stands, and
direct to retail. In addition, much of the production in
California is shipped to large metropolitan markets with-
in the state as well as to terminal markets and wholesale
receivers in the United States and Canada.

Sweet Corn Product
2011 Corn grain $127 million (approx.)
sweet corn $90-122 million per year
Fresh market sweet #2 in nation 17% of market share
Harvest season May 1-Dec. 1
Top counties Imperial, Fresno, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Riverside
grain corn 26th in U.S.
Sept. 1-Dec. 1
Top counties San Joaquin, Sacramento, Glenn, Merced, Tulare

Tulare County corn silage is one of its top commodities
Contra Costa County Cattle and Calves, Sweet Corn, Vegetables, Grapes, Processing Tomatoes top commodities However, SU types yield well and have vigorous germination and as a result are used mostly in the early part of the planting season when seed is being planted in cold soils. The SE varieties, which include Miracle (y), Bodacious (y), and Sweetie 82 (y), have a higher sugar content than SU varieties. Their rate of conversion of sugar to starch is the same, and they are best if eaten within 1 to 2 days after harvest. They are used extensive- ly in roadside and direct marketing. The SH varieties, which include 3680B (w), Aspen (w), Challenger (y), and Supersweet Jubilee (y), contain twice the sugar content of the SU varieties and the rate of conversion of sugar to starch is slower, extending postharvest quality. These characteristics have given SH varieties widespread acceptance by consumers. These varieties generally have poor germination in cold soils due to smaller, weaker seed. This characteristic reduces their use early in the season, although progress has been made in improving the germination characteristics of the SH varieties.

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