Selecting new Corn from Old


Wanted to share and document progress on a popcorn variety I’ve been working on. I started with Calico popcorn from Fedco seeds, and noticed some stalks with purple kernels, ears, and cobs, and some ears with purple kernels, but none with all purple. I like purple vegetables, and decided to try to select for the whole package, despite being sick of purple from living in Manhattan, KS.

Since I didn’t have any with purple stalks, ears, cobs, AND kernels, I had to save seeds with purple kernels and seeds from purple stalks. Even after one season, the color change in the kernels was dramatic. 2015 harvest (left) and 2016 (right):

I still didn’t have any with the whole suite of traits, so I selected as before. Here’s last year’s harvest (3rd generation, moving across country made me miss a couple seasons):

Less dramatic of a change, but still good. Also, I finally have purple kernels on purple plants! I kept a small % of purple seeds from plants that just had reddish or purplish streaking to maintain diversity, but I think it should go much faster now. Oddly, I don’t seem to have taken any pictures of the stalks, ears, or cobs.

Now, the really exciting thing is when I started popping this year’s harvest, some of them popped with a streak of purple in them! This is by far the best one:

I thought that this was supposed to be impossible, so I’m pretty stoked. Of course, this is from the part I didn’t save for seed, so fingers crossed that trait continues to show up in my quest for all purple all the time.

Hybrids versus open pollinated corn

That is very cool! I had often wondered if that was possible but never went any farther than that. Colored popcorn may be the next big thing! Great progress in just a few short years :+1:


Nice job with what you have done! I would cheat a little and cross your best with these There is some indian purple popcorn already but since you have already went to the trouble i would continue. By the way corn breeders just use the center kernels to get higher quality corn in the future. Shamans blue might also be interesting but you can read more on colors out there if you like or strawberry . Once you stabalize your new strain i would test it an extra year or two to breed out the other colored kernels.


Popcorn that pops with shades of purple and magenta are from inclusion of anthocyanin in the endosperm. It is rare, but I’ve seen it a few times over the years. It is usually from presence of the hp (high pigment) gene.


@clarkinks Thanks! I shouldn’t be too surprised that there’s an existing purple popcorn, but I guess it’s the journey as much as the destination. Those are definitely good varieties to consider if I need to reinvigorate my strain (I’m running on the low end of gene pool size; only so much popcorn I can eat). One of the ears I saved is a dead ringer for the Shaman’s Blue. It didn’t have the purple husk, but the kernels were just too nice to not include. Could you clarify what you mean by the center kernels?

@Fusion_power that’s good to know! I’m definitely selecting for plants with lots of anthocyanin, so there’s hope.


In my opinion harvest only seed in the middle of the ear but not the corn seed from the ends of the cob i would pop that. Its imperative you have as many plants as possible 200+ ideally.


There is something to be said for highly inbred lines of corn, particularly if they are highly selected. This is obviously a problem with an open pollinated selection. Inbreeding depression rapidly causes loss of production.

You might look up Jones Multicolored popcorn which Sandhill Preservation carries. It is selected for high diversity of colors including intense red/purple. Dropping a few kernels in with your popcorn at planting time would increase genetic diversity quite a bit.


I usually have about 100, which from what I’ve read is on the low end of acceptable. The corn still shows a lot of diversity, and I haven’t noticed any decline in vigor yet, so I’m not too worried. As I get closer, I plan on planting each batch of saved seed over 2 years and mixing them back together before proceeding to the next generation, thereby increasing the effective population. Also, I’m doing this all in community garden plots, so I’m sure I get the occasional injection of outside genetics even though I’ve seen little to no tassle overlap with what others are growing. Not great if I’m looking for professional results, but works just fine for a hobby!


I love to breed corn, so fun! I select for the darkest purple or red in corns I use for cornmeal. I often just select purple corn at farmers markets in the fall to mix in with my corn to keep the genetics from getting to close. It would be awesome to breed a popcorn with that colored endosperm, I didn’t even know that was possible.


Great project! Very excellent results! I also enjoy breeding and growing corn myself. I’m always pleased to read about other corn ideas or projects. Keep at it!


What?? Are you NOT a Wildcat fan? EMAW?


Makes me a little bit sad. We bleed purple here…
But hey, if you keep at it and develop a nice purple popcorn,
it would probably go over pretty big in Mhk. :wink:


Ha! I have nothing against the 'cats. I’m just not a sports person, and it gets a bit wearisome when EVERYTHING is purple. Now that I have some distance from it, I can think a little more fondly of purple and Willy. We even have a K-State sticker on the car!


I understand actually! We avoid Mhk on game weekends as much as possible. It gets a little insane! :upside_down_face:
Have you considered marketing your purple popcorn though? I would think there would be a pretty respectable market for something like that among the Wildcat fans. And there are plenty of them!


I’ve thought about that some. I’m sure I could make at least $5 if i put my mind to it!


I know I threw that out there like it is so easy to develop and market a new food!!! not!!!
Now that I think of it, there is niche in the Animal Science dept. The Food Science folks… they teach classes about new product development. The students have to come up with a new product and go through all the phases to production… They might be interested in your purple popcorn! Assuming you could keep ownership, or partial ownership… I don’t know how that works. I could make some inquiries for you, or get you a contact if you are interested in pursuing?


Thanks for the offer! I think if I actually get it selected out the way I want, I’ll probably just share seed.Money is nice, but it’s not what I’m in this for.


Gottcha. Well, I will keep watching your posts to see how this develops. Looks fun!


You might like to read this thread on Bishop’s forum.


very interesting thread!


Here’s some of this year’s corn. I decided to plant more of the same generation seed I planted last year to get more purple stalked plants to choose from, and to keep the gene pool size up.

This was just a preliminary sampling as they start to dry down, so there may be some better specimens waiting in the garden.