CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — We’re in the midst of sweetcorn season, and you probably have not yet gotten enough to satisfy your desire for this great American summer treat.
Marty Williams is a researcher with USDA, housed at the University of Illinois, and he has a research project on sweet corn.
“We are very interested in how sweet corn has improved over the last 80 years or so,” Williams said. “So we actually worked with the different companies to recreate different hybrids that were released from different decades of time, and we actually started way back in 1934, the very first hybrid sweetcorn Golden Cross Bantam. And so for each decade since then, we have a couple of different hybrids, that represented the improvements in sweet corn, or lack of improvement.”
“We were particularly interested in density tolerance. How well the plants could tolerate neighbors. And what we actually found was that there hasn’t been any improvement in the plant’s ability to acquire resources when resources are abundant,” Williams continued. “A lone plant out there yields just as well. That Golden Cross Bantam of 1934 does just as well when there is a single plant in the field as the latest hybrids.”
“But when you crowd them in, the newer cultivars, hybrids have better density tolerance. But for eating quality, you definitely want to focus on the latest hybrids,” Williams continued. “You know you’ve really got something good when you can pick it off the plant, husk it, take a bite and then you can’t stop eating. There’s been huge improvements in eating quality, just the last couple decades even.”