Expanding Local Markets through Evaluating Sensory Characteristics and Agronomic Performance of Flint Corn Varieties

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $29,185.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont and State Agricultural College
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Roy Desrochers
University of Vermont and State Agricultural College

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn


  • Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, food processing, other, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    The objective of this project is to identify successful flint corn varieties, management practices, and key physical and sensory characteristics of flint cornmeal and products, to better understand farmer, food manufacturer, and consumer needs to expand the flint corn market in the Northeast.  Varieties will be evaluated for agronomic characteristics including vigor, disease and pest resistance, standability, and grain yield.  We will also investigate flint corn populations to optimize yield and quality.  Each variety will be assessed for milling quality including kernel size uniformity, proneness to cracked kernels, proportion of horny endosperm to soft endosperm, and amount of large bran flakes present in the cornmeal.  Cornmeal from each variety will be evaluated for sensory quality including aroma and flavor.  The evaluation will be made by a panel of trained tasters using established descriptive sensory analysis methods that allow us to objectively define and compare the aroma and flavor of the samples.  Select flint corn varieties will be used to prepare consumer products, such as tortillas, which will be evaluated for characteristics that support consumer acceptance and market success. The data generated by this sensory analysis on finished products will be correlated against the sensory data generated on the cornmeal samples, as well as the agronomic information, to meet the overall objective of identifying successful flint corn varieties that meet the needs of farmers, food manufacturers, and consumers in this emerging market. Information will be shared widely with farmers and end-users through print materials, video, online resources, and outreach events.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to evaluate flint corn variety performance and suitability to this region’s climate and farming systems and their potential to be used by food and beverage manufacturers to produce successful consumer products.


    The questions we will answer are:


    • Which flint corn varieties are best suited for growing in the Northeast?
    • Are the production practices (i.e. populations) for flint corn different than dent corn?
    • What consumer food products are each flint corn variety suitable for producing?
    • Which flint corn varieties result in food products that best meet consumer aroma and flavor preferences?
    • What metrics can be used at the farm-level to predict processing performance and suitability in addition to sensory quality of end products?


    Answering these key questions will help local farmers employ successful production practices and select flint corn varieties that are suitable for local processors. This will help develop strong relationships between local farmers and processors enhancing local food system resiliency. It will also provide insight into consumer preferences related to flint corn food products and will begin to determine characteristics of seed quality required by processors require to make products that meet these consumer preferences to ensure successful markets.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.