Baby corn is husked/unhusked ear harvested two or three days after silk emergence. It is gaining attention among farmers owing to its low cost of production, high demand within the country, promising market, scope of value addition, support to local economy and increased income. After harvest of the young ears, the residual stalk and leaves of baby corn can be used as forage, livestock feed and in making silage. It is used as an ingredient in various preparations at home and in restaurants. Baby corn has nutritive advantage with high phosphorus content (86mg/100g edible portion), folate, fibre, vitamin-B, low calorie. The young cob well wrapped in husk protects it from insects, pests, fungicides and insecticides.

Cultivation method

Production of baby corn is similar to practices recommended for normal grain maize production except for higher plant population density, detasseling and early harvest.

Soil

Well drained, sandy l0 am to silty loam soils is best suited for baby corn cultivation.

Varieties:

Practically any grain hybrid/composite can be used for cultivation of baby corn but for commercial purpose early maturing, synchronized earring, yellow kernel, sweet, short stature single cross hybrids that bears more than one cob withstanding denser planting are preferred. Quality of ear, more than yield is to be the key objective when selecting a variety. HM4, Vivek Baby corn are successful public sector hybrid found to be suitable for baby corn production

Seed treatment:

To evade pest and diseases before sowing treat the seeds

Bavistin + Captan in 1:1 ratio @ 2g/kg seed for blight

Captan @ 2.5g/kg seed for Pythium stalk rot

Fipronil @ 4ml/kg seed for termite and shoot fly

Sowing:

The crop can be grown from February to November in northern states. In December-January it can be grown through transplanting in furrows. Three to four crops of baby corn can be taken during this period.

Plant density:

Seventy per cent extra population is required for baby corn than normal maize. Therefore, baby corn cultivation is done in close spacing. Required population (about 75,000 plants/ha) can be obtained by adopting a spacing of 60 X 15-20 cm depending on plant type (erect/spread). Two seeds should be planted per hill. Seed rate varies from 38 to 50 kg/ha. Cross-pollination with other corn varieties in adjacent fields is not a problem for baby corn when it is grown as the primary crop, since it is harvested when immature.  

Weed management:

Atrazine @1.0-1.5 kg/ha in 500-600 litre of water. While spraying, person who is spraying should move backward so that atrazine film doesnot get disturbed. Preferably three nozzle blooms may be proper for ground coverage and time saving.

Water management:

First water supply should not overflow ridge maintaining two third of the height of ridge. Young seedling, knee high stage, silking and picking are sensitive stages of water stress. Light and frequent irrigation is desirable for crop. During rabi (mid-December to mid-february) soil should be kept moist to avoid frost injury.

Intercropping:

In intercrop baby crop is remunerative and sustainable. Vegetable intercrop with baby corn increases the yield per unit area and per unit time to fulfil vegetable requirement of peri-urban areas. As many as twenty crops can be intercropped with baby corn namely potato, green pea, rajmash for green pod and palak, cabbage, cauliflower, sugarbeet, green onion, garlic, methi, coriander, knol-khol, broccoli, lettuce, mint, turnip, radish, carrot, French bean, celery, gladiolus successfully in rabi season. Long duration of rabi season can be utilised for additional income through intercrops. In kharif, cowpea for green pod and fodder, urd and mung can be intercropped.

Fertilizers:

Six metric ton of farm yard manner (FYM) per hectare should be applied 30 days before sowing. A basal dose of 50 kg/ha nitrogen, 60 kg/ha phosphorus, 40 kg/ha potash and 25 kg/ha zinc sulphate should be applied. Subsequently 50 kg/ha of nitrogen should be applied between 25 and 30 days and another 50 kg /ha of nitrogen should be applied after 45 days of sowing. However, fertilizer recommendation would vary depending on soil, rainfall and local agro-climatic conditions.

Detasseling:

Detasseling is the process of removal of male inflorescence (tassel). It is an essential operation in the cultivation of baby corn. The tassel emergence in maize usually occurs between 45th – 55th days depending upon the variety. Silk emergence takes place after about five days of tassel emergence. The crop should be under close observation for removal of the tassel. Detasseling is done soon after it emerges from the flag leaf and before it starts shedding pollen grains. This operation is necessary for getting good quality unfertilized small cobs acceptable in the international market. If this is not done, baby corn can get pollinated and the quality gets affected. The removed tassels can be fed to cattle.

Pest and diseases:

Growers producing baby corn will be able to avoid many of these problems since the crop is harvested so early. Additionally, baby corn ears are tightly wrapped inside the husk, which helps protect them from pest attack. To prevent stem borer single application of deltamethrin @ 175 ml in 250 liters of water at 15 days after germination is recommended, if required. Need based sprays of mancozeb @ 2.5 g/litre of water at 8-10 days interval can be done to control fungal blights.

Harvesting of cob:

The first cob becomes ready for harvest at about 45 to 50 days after sowing in varieties meant for baby corn. Baby corn cobs are harvested when there is 1-2cm silk extension regardless of age of hybrid. Young cob should be picked carefully within 3-4 days of silk emergence from the leaf sheath without breaking the stem and leaves. Harvesting soon after silk emergence ensures quality. Because ears can quickly become too large and tough to be sold as baby corn, frequent harvests of every 2 to 3 days are necessary.  If silk grows older and longer, the quality of the cob deteriorates. Harvesting should be carried out in the morning, when the moisture content is higher and temperatures low. A planting can be harvested many times. Most varieties produce marketable ears for 3-4 weeks amounting to 9-12 harvests. The fresh cobs with husks must be sent to the market immediately to avoid weight loss. . Ears must be properly cooled immediately after harvest.

Labour:

Baby corn harvest and packing, however, will be considerably more labour-intensive. Harvest of baby corn is currently done by hand and requires 12 to 18 successive pickings, which will add to the labour requirements.

Yield:

An average of 18-20 q/ha yield of baby corn can be obtained from a single crop of maize. Green fodder yield is about 350-450 q/ha. Additional income may be realized from the sale of green fodder as cattle feed and intercrop. The optimum size requirement for the market/cannery in industry is 4.5 to 10cm long and 7 to 17mm diameter of dehusked baby corn. Small kernel size, straight row kernel alignment, and tapered tips are preferred characteristics for high quality baby corn.

Suggestions for farmers:

 

  • Before planting baby corn on a large scale, a small plot should be planted to determine which varieties are best suited for that area and become familiar with harvesting, storage and marketing techniques.
  • Ear quality and appearance are more important than yield in choosing a corn variety for baby corn production.
  • Staggered sowing can be done to maintain the supply as per the market requirements.
  • Processing of baby corn should be harnessed for better returns in case market is not nearby.
  • For baby corn, the export is currently more attractive than domestic market. There are many food processing companies in India getting into exports of baby corn. Farmers intending to take up baby corn cultivation must try and get in touch with these companies and take up contract farming on behalf of the companies. The companies supply the farmers with high quality inputs – including hybrid seeds – besides cultivation know-how. After that they buy back the hybrid corn from the farmers at a predetermined price. This way the problem of marketing baby corn is taken care off.

 

 Ambika Rajendran

Scientist, ICAR-Indian

Agricultural Research Institute

Pusa Campus,

New Delhi-110012



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