Seed corn harvesting

Asked October 16, 2018, 10:11 PM EDT

Does seed corn need to come from perfect large ears of corn?

Douglas County Oregon

1 Response

Many gardeners grow sweet corn in their vegetable gardens, but do not realize that saving seed from a crop of corn is actually quite simple. In particular, hand-pollination is easy to manage because corn plants produce separate and plainly identifiable male and female flowers. Once pollinated, plants are simply grown to seed maturity and harvested. The grains are removed from their cobs and stored for planting in years to come.

People don’t generally save seed from modern hybrid corn, as the offspring are highly variable and may not resemble the parents. Whereas in heirloom varieties, most of the seed saved from the parents “breeds true” or resembles the parent plants. Corn grown by farmers for animals and manufacturing products such as corn oil is generally field corn, which is harvested when dry and mature.

Plant breeders developed hybrid varieties of corn over the last century. With the advent of hybrid varieties came increased yields. So many open-pollinated or heirloom varieties dropped by the wayside, as very few wanted to grow them, as the yields on new hybrid varieties were sometimes more than double.

Heirloom or old-fashioned open-pollinated varieties of sweet corn are rare.

If you grow an heirloom variety, choose the largest and most uniform ears for your next year’s seed.

Hope this helps!