Tight Market Standards For Sweet Corn Necessitate Insecticide Sprays

Bugs in corn

Worms in sweet corn

Consumer surveys show that the lack of insect damage is the most important factor when deciding which sweet corn to buy. Processors and stores require larval infestations to be < 5-10% of sweet corn ears. To meet those standards, sweet corn growers throughout the U.S. must use insecticides.

”Minnesota is the second largest producer of processing sweet corn, Zea mays L., in the United States with an annual production of >53,000 ha; the state also produces ≈4,000 ha for fresh market. The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner), and corn earworm, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), continue to be the most important insect pests of sweet corn in the upper Midwest. To minimize economic risks associated with insect damage in sweet corn, most growers rely on insecticides to manage these pests.

Most processors and fresh market growers require larval infestations and brown kernel incidence to be <5-10% of harvested ears.”

”Sweet corn is the most commonly grown vegetable crop in Pennsylvania. Most is grown for fresh-market. Stringent control is required to meet market standards and most acreage (~80%) is sprayed to control corn earworm, fall armyworm, and European corn borer.”

Authors: O’Rourke, P. K., and W. D. Hutchison.
Affiliation: Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota.
Title: Binomial sequential sampling plans for late instars of European corn borer (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), corn earworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), and damaged kernels in sweet corn ears.
Source: J. Econ. Entomol. 2004. 97[3]:1003-1008.

Author: Fleischer, S.
Affiliation: Department of Entomology, Penn State University.
Title: Regional patterns in corn borer and fall armyworm populations: implications for management.
Source: 58th New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show. 2013 Proceedings. February 5-7. Pgs. 118-119.

Florida is Great for Growing Sweet Corn in the Winter, Insects Love Florida in the Winter Too

Florida sweet corn, w/o insecticides

Florida sweet corn, w/o insecticides

Florida Sweet Corn Production

Florida Sweet Corn Production

Florida is the #1 state in the production of fresh sweet corn with production occurring in winter months when the crop cannot be grown in states further north. Many insect species survive the winter and thrive in Florida. 98-99% of Florida’s sweet corn would be damaged by insects if insecticide sprays were not made. The importance of insecticides for Florida sweet corn is underscored by the realization that the crop was not grown in the state until synthetic chemical insecticides were introduced in the 1940s.

[1]“Florida ranks #1 nationally in the production and value of fresh market sweet corn, typically accounting for approximately 20 percent of both national sweet corn production and of U.S. cash receipts for fresh sales. A total of 589 million pounds of fresh sweet corn, valued at $189 million, was produced on 42,100 acres in Florida during the 2009-10 season. Nearly 20 percent of sweet corn producers overall total direct expenses are invested in pesticides and pesticide application costs. Florida’s warm, humid climate is ideal for the development of pest populations. Sweet corn grown in Florida is subject to damage from numerous insect, weed, disease, and nematode pests. Pesticide use is high and the crop may be sprayed daily in some cases.”

[2]”The first commercial production of sweet corn in Florida was reported in the 1947-48 season. The establishment of sweet corn as one of the major crops produced in Florida is attributed largely to successful control of insects with the newer insecticides. “

Author: McAvoy, G.
Affiliation: Regional Vegetable Extension Agent IV, University of Florida
Title: Sweet corn production in south Florida
Source: Proceedings of the 2012 Atlantic Coast Ag Convention & Trade Show, pp 66-68

Authors: Hayslip, N. C., et al.
Affiliation: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Ft. Pierce
Title: Corn earworm investigations in Florida
Source: Journal of Economic Entomology. 1953. 46[4]:574-583.

Recent Evidence – Herbicides Improve Nutrition of Sweet Corn

According to a 2009 study, application of two common herbicides to several varieties of sweet corn significantly increased the amounts of key nutrients carotenoids in the corn kernels. Corn is among the few vegetable crops that are good sources of zeaxanthin carotenoids, which help ward off diseases of the eye.

“Kernel lutein and zeaxanthin levels significantly increased 15.6% after mesotrione+atrazine early postemergence applications, as compared to the control treatment.  … This is the first report of herbicides directly up-regulating the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway in corn kernels, which is associated with the nutritional quality of sweet corn. Enhanced accumulation of lutein and zeaxanthin is important because dietary carotenoids function in suppressing aging eye diseases such as macular degeneration, now affecting 1.75 million older Americans.”

Authors: Dean A. Kopsell, et al.
Affiliation: Plant Sciences Department, University of Tennessee
Title: Increase in nutritionally important sweet corn kernel carotenoids following mesotrione and atrazine applications.
Publication: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Published June 19, 2009 on http://pubs.acs.org.