Note to readers, attached is the complete report for FNE03-491.
The goal of this project was to explore the merits of producing early sweet corn from transplants, looking at the practicality and the economics of providing additional needed inputs. In addition, different transplant configurations were compared to see if greater results were obtainable.
Two plantings of sweet corn from transplants were made, each covered with floating row cover. Four transplant configurations were used: 98 cell tray vs 162 cell tray and one seed vs two seeds per cell. Transplants were grown in the greenhouse for 14 days and then hardened off outside for 2-3 days. Single seeded cells were planted at 8 inch spacing, double seeded cells at 16 inch spacing so that plant population per acre remained the same. Harvesting of the earliest variety started on July 12th.
Jon saw consistent yields throughout all the transplanted corn with an overwhelming majority of marketable ears providing yields of 250 – 300 bushel per acre. The 98 cell trays produced a much larger seedling with a larger and healthier root system. This made the plant easier to handle at transplanting time, and the plants grew more quickly, keeping ahead of the weeds better than the 162 cell plants. This allowed for a more aggressive cultivation at the first row cover removal. The 98 cell plants also had tassels emerge about two days earlier. Despite these differences, harvest timing was essentially identical.
Jon believes the economics of the system work well for him, mainly because he retails his sweet corn. The added costs of producing transplants, including planting, is roughly $750 an acre over the $1500 per acre for direct seeding corn and covering with row cover. With the yields Jon was able to obtain, gross returns at the retail level can be as high as $6000 per acre. Jon reminds growers that they need to consider other factors when looking at the viability of growing corn transplants and the configuration of trays that best suits their needs, space and labor. Space available in the greenhouse is a primary issue as corn returns are not nearly as high as greenhouse bench space used for bedding plants.