Baby corn — a commercial vegetable
By Muhammad Amjad Ali and Shahid Iqbal Awan
BABY corn, the newly developed corn, is used as a
vegetable in many Asian countries. It is used as an
ingredient in the preparation of many food items. Its
nutritive value is similar to those of non-leguminous
vegetables such as cauliflower, tomato, cucumber and
Fresh baby corn has a crisp texture and a subtle,
slightly sweet corn flavour. It has a great potential
for cooking and for processing as canned product. Baby
corn, in fact, is the immature ear of fully grown
standard cultivars of either sweet corn or field corn.
The residual stalk and leaves of baby corn can be used
as forage, livestock feed and in making silage. It is
used as main source of calories in fodder and feed
formulation. The corn gives the highest conversion of
dry substance to meat, milk and eggs as compared to
Baby corn is a money-making crop and farmers can boost
their income in a short period by cultivating this crop.
To achieve the objective, they are required to be
equipped with the cultivation technology of this crop.
Production of this vegetable is an intensive task. It
can be grown either as a primary crop (all ears are
harvested for baby corn) or as a secondary crop (the top
ear is left to mature for sweet corn or field corn while
subsequent ears are harvested as baby corn). The
decision whether to grow baby corn either as a primary
crop or as a secondary crop will influence variety
choice, planting density, and fertiliser rates. New baby
corn growers can adopt secondary crop system to avoid
The first system is based on producing baby corn without
dent corn production with comparatively close plant
spacing. In this system the plant population should be
kept 1,10,000 to 1,50,000 plants per hectare which is
much higher than that of dent corn.
For commercial production the variety should have
certain additional attributes. In baby corn ideal plant
should bear at least three cobs with good quality,
proper size and shape. Dent corn cultivars can be used
for baby corn production.
Synchronisation in cob emergence reduces the cost of
harvesting and storage. Therefore, for commercial
cultivation of baby corn, the variety should preferably
be a single cross hybrid. In addition, the ear quality
should be the primary objective when selecting a variety
than yield. Small kernel size, straight row kernel
alignment and tapered tips are preferred characteristics
for high quality baby corn. There is no taste advantage
in growing a sweet corn variety over dent corn, since
the ears are harvested before sugars have the
opportunity to accumulate.
Another factor to be considered in variety selection is
the ease in which the ears can be pulled from the stalk.
Cultivars producing plants about six feet in height are
generally the easiest to hand harvest.
The best soil for growing baby corn is well-drained with
a texture of silt loam or loam type. It should have
efficient moisture holding capacity and high amount of
organic matter. The optimum pH range of soil for better
corn growth is between 5.8 and 7.0. It requires a
temperature of more than 10 ºC to flower. In case of
moisture deficiency irrigation is necessary.
A seedbed which is deep, well pulverised yet fairly
compact is excellent for growing baby corn. The soil
with optimum moisture after rainfall or irrigation
should be loosened 20-25 cm deep by ploughing or disking
Baby corn could be sown here mainly in two seasons --
spring and autumn. Spring corn can be planted between
the first week of February and first week of March,
while sowing time for the autumn crop starts from the
last week of July and ends by mid of August. Seed rate
for corn is 20-25 kg per hectare. It should be dressed
with some systemic insecticide and fungicide, and should
be sown at a distance of 45cm (R×R) and 20 (P×P), which
may vary according to the variety under cultivation.
Fertiliser rate for baby corn is in the ratio of 150 to
100 to 100 kg nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium per
hectare respectively. All phosphorus and potassium
fertilisers while half dose of nitrogen fertiliser
should be side dressed with sown seed rows and the
remaining half N is added in two splits, first when the
crop is knee high and second at tasseling. At tasseling
plants should be detasselled because it is a
prerequisite for good corn yield and leads not only to
increase in number of cobs per plant but better cob
development by avoiding the stage of fertilisation.
Weeds can cause up to 40 per cent losses therefore, it
should be controlled by cultural and chemical means.
Irrigation is necessary for growing baby corn where the
seasonal precipitation from May through September is
about 4–6 acre inches. Seasonal water requirement for
corn is 12–14 inches. Due to low temperature during the
spring season crop (February sown), comparatively less
water is required. However, water stress must be
Corn earworm is one of the most destructive insects but
as it generally attacks the plant after silking, it may
be less of a problem in baby corn. Other insect pests
that can cause damage include corn borers, armyworms,
beetles and flea beetles. Growers producing baby corn as
primary crop can avoid these problems as the crop is
harvested early. Potential disease problems include
wilt, leaf blights, rust and viruses.
Baby corn is hand-harvested one to two days after silk
emergence, while the ears are still immature. The ideal
ear size is two to four inches long and 1/3 to 2/3
inches in diameter. Because ears can quickly become too
large and tough to be sold as baby corn, frequent
harvest after every two to three days is necessary.
Young cobs should be picked in the morning. The harvest
period can last two to four weeks.
By the best production practices, a hybrid variety of
baby corn can give 6-8 tones per hectare of husked cobs
with 15-20 per cent recovery of de-husked tender cobs.
Besides cob yield, 25-35 tones per hectare of green
plant yield can also be obtained which can be used as
fodder and green manuring and may result in good profit
Courtesy: The DAWN