A well-defined species-group, characterized by the horny, more or less crinkled, wrinkled or shriveled kernel, having a semi-transparent or trans lucent appearance. Sturtevant in 1899 lists 61 distinct varieties. He gives the first variety of sweet corn recorded in American cultivation as being introduced into the region about Plymouth, Mass., from the Indians of the Susquehanna in 1779. Schenck, in 1854, knew two varieties. It appears, therefore, that the distribution of sweet corn into cultivation made little progress before the last half of the nineteenth century, green field corn having largely occupied its place before that period. Sweet corn is preeminently a garden vegetable, although the large kinds are sometimes grown for silage or stover.
As a garden vegetable, it is used when it has reached the "roasting ear" stage, the kernel then being well filled and plump but soft, and "in the milk.” The kernel is the only part used for human food. When sweet corn is used as a fresh vegetable it is often cooked and served on the cob. In preparing it for canning or drying, it is always cut from the cob. Dried sweet corn, though never an article of commerce, was formerly much used, especially by the rural population. It is gradually being abandoned for canned corn, for other cereal preparations, or for other vegetables. It is practically unknown as human food outside North America. Canned sweet corn has come to be an important article of domestic commerce in the United States and Canada.A considerable amount goes to Alaska, but at present very little is exported. The American Grocer states that the annual corn pack for the United States and Canada for the year 1898 was 4,398,563 cases, each containing 2 dozen 2-pound tins. New York leads with the production of 1,410,569 cases. Maine, Illinois and Iowa follow in rank in the order named. These four states now pack 80 per cent of the corn which is canned in the United States and Canada. While these figures are not strictly accurate, they are the best obtainable, and give a general idea of the extent and distribution of this industry. No better-canned corn is put on the market than that produced in Maine, where it is largely grown in localities having a season too short to mature the seed. As a rule, sweet corn is grown for the canneries under contract. The canning company supplies the seed, guaranteeing it to be good and true to name. The farmer agrees to grow a certain number of acres and deliver the whole crop to the cannery at a stipulated price.
The price now paid in western New York is about $10 per ton of good ears, after deducting the average percentage of husks and rejected ears. Three tons per acre of good ears is considered a good field. The ears are snapped from the stalks with the husks on and hauled in deep wagon boxes to the canneries. The stalks, when preserved either as ensilage or as stover, make excellent fodder. The overripe and inferior ears, being unmarketable, are left on the stalks and materially increase their value as a food for stock.
The stover keeps best in loose shocks. It is liable to heat or mold when closely packed in large stacks or trays. As a field crop, corn is grown most extensively on medium-heavy loams. It luxuriates in rich, warm soils. The crop rotation should be planned so as to use the coarse manures with the corn, which is a gross feeder. On the more fertile lands of the central plain, nitrogenous manures may not always be used to advantage with corn, but in the eastern and southern states, where the soil has lost more of its original fertility, stable manure may often be used profitably with this crop at the rate of from 8 to 10 cords per acre, or possibly more.