What caused my sweet corn to be undersized and taste starchy?


Our corn crop was disappointing. We could feel that ears weren’t filling out very well, so we waited a little longer than usual. When we picked them, they were starchy and not very sweet. The few ears that were sweet were about 3/4 filled out. What might have caused this? (Spring/Summer 2020)


There may be several things that happened to your corn to cause the ear not to completely develop. We did have very hot, dry weather and if that was during the time that your plants were silking, that can reduce the pollination of the ears. Irrigating and incorporating more organic matter into the soil to help hold soil moisture can help. 

Not enough nutrients, nitrogen in particular. Corn is a big user of nitrogen and if there isn’t enough at the time the ear is filling, it can prevent the ear from completely developing. Manure this fall or compost in the spring can provide nutrients or a garden fertilizer that has nitrogen in it. 

Corn is wind pollinated so if the corn is planted in a single row and not a block of four or more rows, pollination may not have happened. Insects that feed on the silk just before pollination can prevent pollination from happening. 

Our colleagues from University of New Hampshire have a factsheet on growing sweet corn in the home garden that may be of interest.