Baby corn cultivation for livelihood in NEH region

Vishram Ram, D. Thakuria, AK Singh, PK Bora and Lala IP Ray
The newly developed green cobs harvested within 3 to 5 days after their emergence are called baby corns. These are typically 4.5 cm to 10 cm in length and 10 mm to 20 mm in diameter. It is a recently introduced as a high value crop, which can boost the economy of the poor hill farmers by diversification in their farming system. Tender baby corns are consumed as vegetables. It is tasty, sweet and easy to consume because of its tenderness. It is an attractive low-calorie vegetable and it has high fiber content without cholesterol. It has 8.2 g carbohydrate, 1.9 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 28 mg calcium and 0.1mg iron per 100 g of edible portion. It is rich in phosphorus content (86mg/100g edible portion) in comparison to other commonly used vegetables which contain about 21 to 57 mg. Baby corn is high in folate and B-vitamin groups. Yellow corn contains carotenoids; these are substances that prevent coronary artery disease, certain cancers and cataracts. It is an attractive low-calorie vegetable, high in fiber and without cholesterol.
Climate and Soil
Suitable soil for baby corn has a wide pH range, from 5.5 to 7.0. It can also grow in quite acidic soil, but cannot grow in wetland with low drainage. As for temperature, the plant prefers full sunlight necessary to its growth. Consequently, successful growth requires a minimum average temperature of 72 or 750F. Nevertheless, when daytime temperature exceeds 850 F, baby corn may be injured, and have to suffer slow growth.
Varieties for NEH region suitable for baby corn production
Possibility of growing baby corn after maize harvest as September sown crop as well as normal sown crop was harnessed. A few varieties suitable for baby corn production are as flows: Vivek Maize Hybrid 23, Vivek Maize Hybrid 25, Pusa Extra Early Hybrid Maize 5, Vivek Maize Hybrid 5, HIM 129, Prakash, DHM 108, VL Makka 42, MTH-14, RCM 1-1, RCM 1-3 and MLY.
Field preparation
Plough the field with disc plough once followed by cultivator ploughing twice, after spreading FYM or compost till a fine tilth is obtained, which facilitate the sowing and provide the aeration and better seed-soil contact to improve the germination and further growth.
Sowing Time: Crop can be grown from January to September depending upon the moisture availability in the field. However, baby sowing during the second week of May followed by the third week of April produced the highest yield particularly in hilly regions of India.
Seed rate and spacing: For baby corn population of 100000-110000 sufficient for better yield, and to attain the optimum population we select good quality seeds and adopt the seed rate of 18-20 kg/ha, with a spacing of 15 cm between plants in the rows which are 45 cm apart.
Seed treatment: Seed treatment with Metalaxyl or Thiram @ 2g/kg of seed for the control of downy mildew and crazy top or with Carbendazim (Bavistin) @ 3g per kg seed against seed rot and seedling blight. Seeds treated with fungicides may be treated with three packets (600 g/ha) of Azospirillum before sowing helps in increasing yield and quality of baby corn.
Method of sowing: Seed sowing is done by ridge and furrow method. The sowing is done on the side of the ridge, dibbles and the seeds at a depth of 4 cm along the furrow in which fertilizers are placed and covered with soil. Put one seed per hole if the germination is assured otherwise put two seeds per hole in high rainfall situations.
Thinning and gap filling
If two seeds were sown, leave only one healthy and vigorous seedling per hold and remove the other on the 12-15 days after sowing. Where seedlings have not germinated, dibble pre-soaked seeds at the rate of 2 seeds per hole and immediately irrigate.
Nutrient Management
Spread 12.5-15 t/ha of well rotten FYM or compost fifteen days before sowing because the partially decomposed FYM or composts, manure and inorganic fertilizers gives better results than the use of fertilizers alone.
Plant responded to a dose of 60 kg N ha-1 and thus it is recommendation for hybrids and composite varieties. To get the better response of nitrogen it is advised to apply nitrogen in three splits (50% as basal + 25% at 25 days after sowing (DAS) and earthup+25% at 45 DAS or at the tasselling stage of the crop).
Under low availability of soil phosphorus as in NEH region (mainly acidic soils), application of 30 kg P2O5 ha-1 results in an excellent crop. Basal placement of phosphate in rows about 5 to 8 cm deep and 5 cm apart from seed in the soil gives the best results, as it is less mobile and it does not get lost through leaching. Thus, it remains available to the plants till they need it.
Potassium is essential for translocation of water and photosynthates, the crop may be fertilized with 20 K2O ha-1 for remunerative return. Application of half of potassium requirement along with phosphorus as basal and the rest at 25 DAS along with 25% nitrogen produced higher baby corn yield as compared to the 100% potassium applied as basal dose.
In zinc deficient plants chlorotic spots are seen at the base of the leaves becoming white, a symptom called ‘white bud of maize’; it is advisable to apply 10 kg zinc sulphate ha-1 before sowing. The deficiency of zinc in plants at later stages of growth, however, corrected by foliar application ZnSO4 dissolved in water with half the quantity of lime (5% ZnSO4+2.5% hydrated lime).
Water management
When long dry spells occur at the tasselling to silking stage of the crop then the crop may be irrigated by stored water with water harvesting practices for better baby corn production. Excess water or waterlogging is equally or even more harmful as the crop cannot tolerate stagnant water and is very sensitive to waterlogging. Water stagnation in the baby corn field for three days it almost spoils the whole crop. Therefore, an efficient drainage is of greater significance than the irrigation particularly in NEH region.
Weed management
Two manual weeding would be sufficient for weed management in baby corn. While mechanical weeding is good for soil aeration and root respiration.

To be contd