Progress in breeding silkless baby corn for whole ear consumption

The recessive tassel seed genes (ts1, ts2 and ts4), with selection for the desired phenotype, can act as silk-restorer genes for the silkless gene. The most successful combination so far has been the double recessive of ts2 sk. Some selected stocks of ts2 sk have essentially normal tassels and ears. The development of a few tassel silks and a few secondary ear florets may be discovered on close examination.

Hybrids between two silkless stocks, each with silks restored by a different recessive tassel seed gene, give a crop of tiny barren cobs that are completely silkless. Together with mechanization this new genetic system allows mass production of whole cob baby corn in a way that domestic agriculture may capture this expanding market now monopolized by importations. Because the silkless condition allows some delay in harvesting, presumably a machine could be designed to do the task, at least in part. The yield of baby ears is increased by the use of a multiple-eared background derived from certain popcorns. Baby ear production is further enhanced by the silkless condition because all of the energy becomes devoted to producing more cobs instead of going first into silk growth and then into kernel development. Yields of 25 or more silkless cobs per plant may be realized.

The present use of imported baby ears tends to be in the manner of a garnish in stir-fry preparations, in salads or at "salad bars" and as pickles. Their food value is chiefly as fiber. They add a crunchy texture, some corn flavor and eye appeal. The cob flavor is an independently inherited trait.

Walton C. Galinat
 
 


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