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Sweet sensation

Quality, taste of new Roundup Ready corn have proven popular with vegetable growers
Story and photos by Chris Villines 8/1/2012


Seminis Performance Series Obsession II Roundup Ready sweet corn grows between rows of silage corn at Julius Beaty’s farm in Bradley County. Julius, right, and cousin/neighbor Herbert Lackey are both trying out this first-year product.
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Ricky Hudson disappears into his corn patch and a few minutes later emerges with a bucket nearly overflowing with freshly picked ears of bi-color sweet corn.  A wide smile creases his face as he shucks one of the ears.

“Just look at that,” he beams.  “Every ear is like this one — big, beautiful, no bugs, no worms, nothing, and no telling how many people have told me how easy it silks.  And just wait until you taste it!”

The Cleveland beef cattleman, a member of Southeastern Farmers Cooperative, planted this 3/4-acre field near his home at the end of March, becoming one of the first producers in the area to try Seminis Performance Series sweet corn hybrids, Roundup Ready products released for commercial sale just this year.  Enhanced with glyphosate-tolerant traits, these new hybrids offer vegetable growers like Ricky, who sells his sweet corn off the farm to the public, the same benefits that have made grain and silage corn production easier and more efficient.

“We’ve been able to take the type of technology that we’ve had on the agronomic side for many years with field corn and spread it over to the fresh vegetable side,” says David Phillips, sales representative for Seminis.  “We’re seeing very good results, and growers have really accepted the product because it offers them several advantages.  They can plant this corn side by side with their Roundup Ready field corn and not have to do anything different, unlike before when they would have to separate their sweet corn.  It also reduces the amount of spraying that has to be done, saving time and money.  And the quality and taste of this corn are outstanding.”

Seminis sweet corn hybrids, David adds, are designed to give growers more flexibility in the way they manage their operations.  The company offers three Roundup Ready varieties: Obsession II, a bi-color high-quality shrunken that Ricky is growing; Passion II, a yellow high-quality shrunken; and Temptation II, a sugar-enhanced bi-color.

“These hybrids provide both above- and below-ground protection from the broadest spectrum of insect pests, helping cut insecticide uses by up to 85 percent,” David stresses.  “And they offer the opportunity for in-crop applications of Roundup WeatherMAX and Roundup PowerMAX herbicides to help control weeds that rob vital moisture and nutrients from the soil, resulting in better growth and maximum yield potential.”

Ricky estimates that his corn crop — the proceeds of which are for grandsons Caden Hudson, 5, and Clay Branham, 3 — has yielded “over a thousand dozen” ears, averaging “about an ear-and-a-half to the stalk.”  He adds that these impressive numbers were obtained even as the Cleveland area was experiencing a drier-than-normal spring.

“When this field was growing, we were more than four inches behind in rainfall for the year,” Ricky says as he empties another bucket of picked corn to fill customer orders.  “It just took off and never stopped.  We live right on the highway, and I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s the prettiest field of corn they’ve ever seen.  It’s stayed dark green the whole way through.  You can look at the stalks and tell how healthy it is.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m like a kid at Christmas.”

Southeastern Farmers Co-op outside salesman Bob Davis — who’s monitored the progress of Ricky’s crop from the beginning as well as the Seminis corn being grown by area producers Julius Beaty, Herbert Lackey, and Bernard Sims — is equally emphatic in his praise for the product.

“In my 33 years with the Co-op, I’ve never seen or tasted a better-quality sweet corn,” says Bob.  “I helped Ricky shuck 100 ears the other day, and there wasn’t a worm in any of them.  There’s such big potential for this.  Everybody wants a little sweet corn on their farm, and if they can put it next to their field corn and not worry about it, then that’s the icing on the cake.”

This side-by-side setup is what cousins Julius and Herbert employed with the Obsession II at their respective farms in McDonald.  

“When you break the shuck off the stalk, it breaks the cleanest of any corn I’ve seen,” says Herbert.  “And all of the silk just falls out.  A lot of times, you get the silks on the corn and have to brush them off.  I haven’t seen the first worm, either.”

“It’s a very unique product,” adds Julius.  “I don’t see how you would engineer it to be more correct than it is.  I’ve been pleased.  If we had gotten more rain, then you would have really seen a corn crop.  The potential is there.”

Foothills Farmers Cooperative outside salesman Sidney Jessee says when he first learned about and tasted the Seminis varieties at last year’s Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., he was excited about the possibility of introducing this product to producers.

“I was highly impressed, especially with the taste of the corn,” says Sidney.  “When I came back, I found out that Tennessee Farmers Cooperative was able to get the Seminis corn and just hit the ground running with it.”

To capture the early spring market, Sidney says several of his customers purchased bags of Temptation II, which is designed for cooler, damper soil.  As the weather warmed, producers began planting the Obsession II.

“The feedback from customers has been very positive,” Sidney adds.  “I’ve heard comment after comment about the good grain quality, marvelous taste, and good weed control of this corn.  It will save these customers money in the long run by cutting down on weed competition and being planted in with their field corn.”

David says that while Seminis Performance Series sweet corn is currently only marketed to farmers in 25,000-seed count bags designed to cover one acre, the hope is that the backyard grower will have access to the product in the future.

“We’re working with the government right now to try to allow us to offer Seminis corn in smaller quantities to the home gardener,” he says.  “There has been a lot of interest from that market as well.”

But for now, growers and consumers who have become devotees of this sweet treat are continuing to spread the word about its virtues.

“People have been stopping by and getting a dozen [ears], and when they come back they say they want 10 dozen,” he laughs.  “A person who bought 30 dozen called and told me that not one ear was bad.  When you can do that with sweet corn, you’ve done something.”

For more information on Seminis Performance Series sweet corn, visit with the professionals at your local Co-op.

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