Monday, March 20, 2017

Growing Corn in the Tropics

In Hawaii, as well as other tropical areas of the world, corn can be planted year round. This will give gardeners three and possibly four crops a year.  

A major complaint from backyard  growers, however, is that the individual ears of corn produce few kernels. Poor pollination is the most common cause. Since corn is wind pollinated, it needs to be densely planted in order to achieve good pollination. Planting a compact square or a dense circle will ensure better pollination than a few plants or long rows. The best recommendation is to plant a minimum of 4 rows about 8 feet long rather than 1 or 2 long rows.
Weather patterns can adversely affect the corn crop.  Too much wind or heavy rains during the pollination period, or very dry weather will impede pollination. In addition, from pollination to harvest, corn plants need adequate water to insure full kernel development.

Corn varieties are classified into two groups, tropical and temperate. The tropical supersweet corns are bred in Hawaii. Popular ones include Supersweet #9 and #10. If residing in the tropics, growers should be aware that many seed company catalogs list only the temperate hybrids: Bantam, Golden Cross and Jubilee. Some of these seed packets are also found in local stores. These temperate varieties have, in general, been very disappointing when grown in Hawaii and presumably in other tropical regions.