Georgia sweet corn is a popular crop in the south, particularly in Georgia where it takes advantage of the warm weather. All areas of the state grow this favorite summer vegetable. While the crop can flourish for many months in the Georgia climate, it is difficult to transport around the nation. Sweet corn has a slim shelf life, the minute it’s harvested as the sugars begin turning to starches, destroying the natural flavors. Appropriate preventive measures must be taken to maintain and ensure peak freshness upon arrival.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states Georgia’s sweet corn is one of the least profitable crops for the state due to its short shelf life. This places a greater emphasis on transportation procedures. Some of the distribution challenges for sweet corn can be overcome by using multiple cooling methods in order to preserve the product until it reaches the market. In addition, it is up to the farmers’ discretion to strategically pack and ship their products to maintain the value. Georgia's sweet corn transported appropriately makes it to the market hassle-free and in proper selling condition.
Whether it's eaten as corn on the cob or produced as cream corn, sweet corn is a popular summer vegetable in the United States. The hot commodity is grown in every single Georgia county, making it the most commonly grown crop in the state. Sweet corn has less starch and more natural sugar content than field corn.
Aside from the flavor, the two types of corn have completely different purposes. Sweet corn is prominently used for eating right off the cob, out of a can, or a frozen bag. While field corn is not harvested until the plant essentially dies, drying out the kernels for livestock feed, corn starch, ethanol, and cornmeal.
Iowa is typically coined as producing the most sweet corn in the U.S. However, warmer states like Florida, Georgia, and California have the climate to grow more sweet corn for longer periods of time.
Less than one percent of Iowa’s acreage is used to produce sweet corn each year, Pacific Northwest states usually can or freeze its corn with the help of the major vegetable processors in these locations. In 2018, Georgia planted over 30 thousand acres of sweet corn that added over $110 million dollars to its economy.
From private farms to commercial farms, Georgia works with over 100 growers, some of the well known are:
There are a few common hardships this crop must overcome each year: disease risk, pests, and weather concerns. Sweet corn relies heavily on ideal climate conditions. The kernel will not fully develop or get much pollination if it’s too hot, but it has to be warm enough to actually sprout.
Basic crop mites attack corn including earworms, Japanese beetles, flea beetles, and aphids. Insecticides are the typical solution for these pests, but farmers should always use caution when spraying chemicals around a product that someone will eventually put on a plate. Diseases are not prevalent for this type of corn but proactive growers should maintain the quality of their crop on a consistent basis.
The warmer states allow this crop an extended period of growth. In Georgia, the season begins May 1st and concludes mid-September. The harvest dates can sometimes be stretched to October depending on the weather conditions. Having a five-month window to grow this crop makes it difficult to determine the perfect moment for removal. Farmer’s can perform a visual or physical test to assess harvest dates.
Agriculturalists can anticipate sweet corn is ready to harvest roughly 20 days after the first white silks appear. White silks indicate pollination has just occurred but the kernels are not developed.
The ear should maintain a green color, but the silks should be dark brown before it’s ready to eat. Though brown usually indicates a good batch of sweet corn, you should never purchase or eat corn that has brown husks as well as brown silks. During this stage, the corn has lost the fresh, sweet flavor.
When your crop is browning and you’re ready to shuck, confirm your corn is prepared for harvesting prior to retrieval. Once sweet corn is cut, the shelf-life quickly decreases as the sugar is turned into starch. 50 percent of the flavor is lost just twelve hours after picking.
Sweet corn is retrieved during the “milk stage,” when the kernels are not yet mature, but they are fully formed. Farmers can simply do a taste test to determine the ripeness, or a thumbnail can be used to pierce one of the plump kernels. If the punctured corn oozes what looks like milk, it is time to harvest. Otherwise, a clear liquid will seep signaling the corn needs more time on the field.
After sweet corn is removed from the crop, the sugar immediately begins turning to starch diminishing the overall flavor, but the corn is good for up to one week. The time crunch emphasizes the urgency farmers place on getting their crop out on the market.
The most popular way to transport this crop is through truckload. It can be shipped by ocean, air, or rail, but the time constraint usually calls for trucks, unless the corn has been enhanced by a vegetable processor to increase shelf life. To preserve the depleting sugar content in sweet corn, most farmers keep their corn cool and it must remain cool through the entire transit. Some of these cooling methods are:
Hydrocooling: Corn is lowered into containers that allow water exposure and then they are saturated with freezing cold water, lowering the internal temperature. Hydrocooling must be completed prior to loading the products on pallets. Once the pallets have been loaded, an extra 2-4 inches of ice is poured over top to ensure the vegetable stays cold.
Package Icing: For domestic orders, growers can place a thick layer of ice in the container with the sweet corn, as the driver is transporting the product the ice will melt keeping it cool through the process. Packing ice into the container causes the load to weigh more, which will raise shipping costs as well.
Vacuum Cooling: Once corn has been iced and cooled, it can be placed into air-tight containers, and the air will be suctioned out. This method reduces the temperature by half in only 30 minutes, but it’s expensive.
Refrigerated Transport: Wirebound crates and fiberboard boxes are the most common types of packing used for refrigerated trucks. The temperature should remain at 32 degrees until the final destination is reached, and the driver may have to stop a few times to touch up the ice packed on the crates or boxes. However, if the grower opts out of packing the truck with ice, boxes must maintain a safe distance from one another to create a pathway for continuous airflow.
Due to the decline of quality, once sweet corn has been harvested, farmers are advised to keep their products out of storage. Storing corn can cause a plethora of issues including:
Farmers are better off shipping their corn as is than attempting to store the corn in a controlled atmosphere. Freezing the corn is an option, but it won’t be restored to its best quality. Sweet corn has a higher risk of chilling injury than field corn as the process can be meticulous and time-consuming.
To learn more about the packaging and handling process for corn, take at our article How Corn is Packaged and Shipped.
Shipping Georgia sweet corn puts pressure on carriers. With a short shelf-life, it is critical for this corn to arrive on the market as quickly as possible. Certain steps like cooling and refrigerated freight must be maintained for the quality of the product to remain at its best. Refrigerated loads can reach temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is recommended that carriers load ice into the refrigerated truck for additional safety measures. Carriers may even have to stop to add more ice because sweet corn is so temperature sensitive, it must stay below 32 degrees.
Let R+L Global Logistics be your dedicated refrigerated shipping partner. We will go through all of the steps necessary to guarantee the quality of your product. Our customer service team will provide the full scope of services we have to offer. We partner with the best carriers to ship smarter ensuring your freight arrives in the same condition it was received, this is especially important for sweet corn.
R+L Global Logistics’ family-owned company values and attention to detail ensure optimal planning each and every time. We can ship your sweet corn with refrigerated loads or less than truckloads. Get a freight rate quote from our team by clicking on “Get a Quote” below or speak with our customer service representatives today at (866) 353-7178.
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