Our commitment to organic, non-GMO, hybrid sweet corn

High Mowing Organic Seeds is dedicated to expanding the variety and quantity of organic seed while ensuring that this seed meets or exceeds professional quality standards. To each of us at High Mowing quality seed signifies that it is organic and non-GMO and that it performs to the highest quality standards for germination rate, seed vigor, genetic purity, and disease prevention.

Organic, hybrid sweet corn is a challenging seed crop to grow and source. As you can see in this catalog, our sweet corn offering is more limited than many of our other crops. We are extremely proud of the sweet corn varieties we are able to offer. At the same time, we are constantly striving to bring you more.

To add more varieties we must trial them, partner with breeders, determine sourcing and often produce the seed. We are committed to doing the work of providing the best quality options to you, and this work can take many years. Here are some of the steps we are taking to improve and add great sweet corn options to our selection.

Breeding

We rely on our breeding partners for most of our organic sweet corn varieties. It takes years to build relationships with breeders and to establish the trust required for them to share their hybrid parent lines. The breeding process requires selecting each parent line, seeing how they combine in test crosses and evaluating the seed production implications.

Dr. William Tracy at the University of Wisconsin has been instrumental in helping us successfully expand our hybrid and OP sweet corn variety offerings. Tom Stearns, owner and founder of High Mowing, and Jodi Lew-Smith, Vegetable Breeder at High Mowing, first met Bill 10 years ago and explored the possibilities for organic varieties. After several rounds of test-crossing his inbred lines, we developed Bling F1 and My Fair Lady F1. We are very thankful for Bill's work and interest in organics.

Trials

On our trials farm, we not only trial finished varieties against industry standards, we also trial the parent lines of the hybrids. These lines are trialed and evaluated for many traits including sweetness, tenderness and husk coverage. Strong cold soil emergence and vigor are key for seed production. Additionally testing for abundant pollen production and tasseling timing is important to make sure that the nick (timing of flowers of both plant sexes) is good. Nicking is the simultaneous release of pollen from the male emergence of the silk from the female, and is essential to achieve a successful hybrid seed crop.

In an effort to further increase our hybrid sweet corn assortment, our trialing program worked with Illinois Foundation SEeds, Inc. (IFSI). We trialed many sh2 varieties in Wisconsin and Vermont, including some from IFSI's Xtra-Tender series, and chose 2171 as our favorite. We were delighted when ISFI chose to produce organic Xtra-Tender 2171 and it is now available in our catalog. As far as we know this is the only sh2 hybrid available as organic seed in the world. We are excited to continue trialing IFSI varieties and know that their work will allow us to add more quality sweet corn varieties.

Production

Production of organic, hybrid sweet corn seed is tricky. Direct seeding untreated seed into cool spring soil causes the seed to rot, so transplanting is sometimes necessary. Hybrid corn production also requires a specific planting pattern for the male and female parent lines. Male and female lines are planted in their own rows on different dates to maximize good nick. Male pollen production should be strong so multiple female rows can be planted for each male row. The photograph here shows a typical MFFMFF row pattern. In order to prevent the female line from self-pollinating, they are emasculated by removing the tassels before pollen is produced. The ears that are on the female line will have the hybrid seed.

We produce organic hybrid sweet corn on our farm and through contracts with trusted organic seed growers. We are thankful to have partners in this process, as it allows us to make more professional hybrid sweet corn available to you.

The 2016 season was excellent for our production of My Fair Lady F1 and other seed, but we also had some failures, most notably with Allure F1. Allure is a synergistic (sy) variety bred by our friends at Seneca Vegetable Research. We are gratified by their patience and willingness to work with us to bring additional sweet corn varieties to you.

Quality Control

Our quality control processes take place during breeding, trials, production, harvest, and seed processing. In the production fields, the parent lines are rogued in order to remove any weak or off-type plants. The entire crop is monitored for any signs of disease, pest damage or fertility deficiencies.

Once the female ears are harvested, the seed is dried, shelled and cleaned. Seed from every lot is tested in the High Mowing quality control lab for germination, purity, pathology and vigor. Finally, it is sent to an accredited lab for third party GMO testing. Any lots showing a positive GMO test are rejected and destroyed.

We recognize the importance of offering our growers quality organic hybrid sweet corn seed and are committed to bringing you more, better seed that thrives in organic conditions. We will continue to advance our breeding partnerships and our trialing and production efforts to do so. And, as always, we remain committed to achieving the highest quality standards.