Innovative agronomic techniques for growing profitable high quality organic sweet corn
J. Owen and S. LeBlanc
Sweet corn is a high input, high value vegetable crop popular across Canada. In the Maritimes, sweet corn is commonly sold for $6 per dozen, and organic sweet corn is in high demand and may fetch as much as $12 per dozen. Nonetheless, growing organic sweet corn is challenging because the crop requires high levels of fertility timed with key growth stages, as well as intensive pest management techniques to control weeds and insects which cause reductions in crop quality and yield.
In the context of a long term organic rotations experiment at AAFC in Bouctouche, New Brunswick, innovative techniques for growing organic sweet corn are being developed. These include: 1) using transplants instead of direct seeding; 2) planting into zone-tilled established red clover plantings; 3) use of narrow over-zone biodegradable organic “mini-mulches”; 4) drip irrigation beneath the mulches; 5) a fertility regime using organic compost pre-planting soluble organic fertigation; and 6) insect pest scouting and control using organic pesticides. This very intensive system was developed as a context for studying nutrient dynamics in companion plantings in organic rotational systems, and may be regarded by some as prohibitively expensive outside a research setting. However, a cost analysis was conducted comparing input costs and revenues from this intensive organic system with input costs and revenues from commercial Maritime conventional sweet corn growers.
The results show that the risk profile differs vastly between systems, yet profitability is equal or greater with the organic system. Costs, revenues, risks, risk-mitigation suggestions and considerations for future efficiencies are discussed.
Plant Canada Conference. Saint Mary's University, Halifax, NS. July 17-21, 2011
Author Locations and Affiliations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Bouctouche, Canada NB E4S 2J2
Posted May 2012