Georgia sweet corn is a popular crop in the south, particularly in Georgia where it takes advantage of the warm weather. However, it is difficult to transport around the nation. Sweet corn has a slim shelf life — the minute it’s harvested, 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, so it’s imperative to utilize proper transportation procedures to prevent loss. Using multiple cooling methods is one way to do this while strategically packing and shipping your products is another.
To maximize your ability to successfully ship and take profit on this cash crop, continue reading to follow this handy guide for dealing with all of the challenges that could arise.
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. On the other hand, 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, and Pacific Northwest states usually can or freeze its corn with the help of the major vegetable processors in these locations. In 2018, Georgia planted more than 30,000 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:
Do you need freight shipping from Georgia to Florida for your sweet corn or another commodity? Reach out today and see how USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics can find a solution for your business.
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 that attack corn include 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.
A more recent problem has nothing to do with diseases or pests, but a corn shortage due to bad weather conditions in multiple corn-growing spots across the U.S. An especially cold winter plagued the Midwest, which bled into the opening months of 2021, were followed in many parts of the country by long droughts, some of which have been ongoing.
The sudden scarcity of corn has led to huge price increases already being felt at farmers markets and grocery stores around the country. And if you think this will have an effect on just filling the stomachs of people nationwide, it has further-reaching consequences.
Corn is used to produce ethanol fuel, which in many cases makes up 10 percent of today’s gasoline. So if corn is more expensive, or just harder to find, that means gas price increases could be occurring partially for this reason.
Other uses include as animal feed — which might have an impact on the price of beef, chicken, pork and fish — and as components in common home improvement materials.
All of corn’s different usages and the squeeze on the current supply are going to see the price of corn continue to rise, along with the cost of the vast amount of products that rely on corn as a key ingredient.In Georgia, some farmers are seeing their best yields of sweet corn ever in 2021. This led to them being offered lower initial prices for bushels initially but the price is starting to rebound as demand increases and other places have had lower-than-expected corn yields.
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.
The shipping process for this crop is one of the most crucial aspects due to its low shelf life but it still leaves many with the question: how is corn transported?
After sweet corn is removed from the crop, the sugar immediately begins turning to starch, diminishing the overall flavor. The corn will still be good for up to one week. This time crunch emphasizes the urgency farmers place on getting their crop out on the market.
The most popular way to undertake corn transportation 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 corn is already a tough proposition, as previously outlined. Its short shelf life in relation to other produce means speedy, readily available trucks are a requirement rather than a desire — or you could find yourself dealing with a compromised, possibly unsellable crop yield.
Compounding matters is a current driver and freight truck shortage with no relief in sight. This means the same amount of businesses are competing with one another to find less trucking capacity than existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So knowing this, it’s important to have a general plan for ways to try to combat this and line yourself up for a greater chance at successfully booking a load. Here are a few ways to make that happen:
Call early: This method could involve having a rough idea of when your harvest will be ready and preemptively beginning to investigate truck availability. This will give you the opportunity to shop multiple freight rates, lock in dates and even procure access to a climate-controlled truck. This will see you have a better shot at getting in on the limited capacity over trying to call last-minute, which will more closely resemble a roll of the dice.
Stay in the lane: Another way to more easily secure the space you require could be to ship your sweet corn along the most popular shipping routes available. It stands to reason that if there are trucks going back and forth between Georgia and the places the corn is sold or processed most often, that there would be a more consistent opportunity to find an empty truck waiting to be filled with your maize.
Pick the perfect partner: While you might not be able to be super choosy when trying to secure freight capacity for your corn, it could be equally frustrating if you choose a partner that can’t meet your specific needs for shipping sweet corn. This produce is considered light density, which means it only has a shelf life of a day or two once at the grocery store. So it’s to your benefit to do a little research on the third-party logistics (3PL) providers available to you and see what others are saying about them. It could be the difference between your corn on shelves or spoiling before it reaches its destination.
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.
Now that you’re not longer asking yourself how is corn shipped, 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.