Sweet Corn: su, se, sh2, Bt, etc

So this is for those who- like me- really enjoy sweet corn and growing the really sweet stuff (aka “super sweet” and beyond).

I’m somewhat familiar with the differences in all the various types/varieties. I used to grow some of the common su Sweet Corns like Silver Queen, jubilee and others. Then I discovered sh2 super sweets like Honey Select and incredible, and it was all over-I was hooked and it was only then that I delved into learning about the differences. Granted, the best ones are most definitely GMO but that doesn’t bother me one bit (not trying to start that debate, though!!!). The GMO I’m talking about on some super sweet varieties make them Round-up ready and, in the case of Bt varieties, give them built in insect protection. If you’ve never grown any of the “supersweet” corn, you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s like going from a store bought peach to a home grown, tree ripened peach…just out of this world. More like a fruit than a vegetable (I think it technically is a fruit?) because it is so sweet.

ANYWAY…my question is this. The corns that I have grown and call “super sweet” (specifically: Incredible and Honey Select) are su and sh2 supersweets but weren’t “round-up ready” or hae built in insect resistance (Bt). But I think maybe those are some of those patented, strictly controlled varieties that can’t be purchased by a small grower like me, is that true for all of them? I’ve read stories of Monsanto or Archer Daniels sending spies in to catch farmers saving some seed corn and then sue the pants off of them. Not sure if this is just urban legend but I think its true. But I’m willing to pay a high price if I can get it in small quantities, which so far I haven’t seen.

Does anyone know if I can buy any supersweet (sh2 or other) that is GMO to allow it to accept glyc and be insect resistant (Bt). Is this available in reasonable amounts, and if so, where? Thanks.

Wikipedia lists the varieties under each of the categories. They list Incredible as se and Honey Select as sy.


I googled “sh2 corn seed” and many vendors came up. I have not grown sh2 corn yet.

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Yes, Thanks Noah. I’m aware of the availability of sh2 corn seed. I did a poor job of stating my question above, but what I’m looking for is sh2 corn with Bt protection “built in”. It’s often called bt corn. That’s the stuff I was talking about that - last I heard- was so guarded and watched closely by big companies and so on. And as I said above, I understand the controversy with GMO and so on, but for me personally- I’m ok with it (I know that makes some people’s blood boil- sorry).

Thanks again for your response. Next time I’ll try to be more clear. sh2 corn with bt is what I’m wanting in small quantities. Thanks.

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I think you are confusing all the different sweetness of corn types su, se, sh2, sy, with Bt or Roundup ready gmos. They are two different things.

Anyone can buy su, se, sh2, or sy. I think even Gurneys sell most of these to anyone. That’s the flavor/sugar you are referring to.

The insect, and/or glyphosate resistance is what is licensed. That is the infused gene which is highly guarded by Monsanto etc. Su, se, sh2, sy is not a gmo product, rather only the result of hybridized breeding.

Glyphosate resistance and Bt infused genes are the ones genetically modified. Those genes can be incorporated in any type of corn (su, se, sh2, or sy) but when that happens, the corn becomes gmo and requires a license agreement to purchase seed.

If you want to buy the Bt corn, I’m aware of two series available. One is the Performance series, the other is the Attribute series. Both require filling out the application for a license. The Performance is also Roundup Ready. The Attribute series are only Bt.

Lots of seed suppliers sell this seed, but unfortunately I don’t think any make it available in small quantities for a home gardener . I think you have to buy a minimum of an acre of seed.

That said, I don’t know how much of an advantage it is for someone planting a small garden of sweet corn to have it Roundup Ready, or Bt, which is probably why they don’t sell it in small quantities.

In other words, a small garden of sweet corn is easy to weed (Roundup Ready not as much as an advantage). Likewise it’s not as difficult to spray a small planting for earworm, so Bt isn’t as much of an advantage either, if that make any sense.

Still I can appreciate the desire for RR and Bt sweet corn. I talked with a friend a few weeks ago and he loves it. He grows just a small amount of RR and Bt sweet corn. He is able to get just a small amount for his garden w/o a license because he does a lot of business with his local co-op.

It just so happens I ordered some Performance series sweet corn the other day. Not only was the seed very expensive, but the online “paper work” for the licensing agreement was somewhat ridiculous. There were so many documents, I quit reading them. I simply want to grow some sweet corn, not have to sign documents which may involve selling my soul.

Thanks for the note. In this rare case I actually am not quite as confused as I made it sound! ha. I do understand the difference but you’d never know it from my original post. In plain English, which is what I should have used, I am looking to buy “supersweet” corn that has been genetically modified so that I can spray it with round up and/or it would have “built in” insect resistance in the form of Bt.

So I do understand that su, se, sh2 and sy are various form of sweet or supersweet corn and that there are corn plants that are engineered to not die when sprayed with round up. I know much less about Bt and may well be confused about it, but my understanding was that it was something (a gene?) build into a corn plant to make the plant generate its own insect protection.

So again, I’m looking for supersweet corn that is round up ready AND/OR has Bt protection built in. But from what I had seen it was only available in large quantities at high prices and is very protected. Your response seems to confirm that, Darn it. But thanks so much for trying to help.

I will stay out of the GMO debate but I would like to ask all of you that pursue the perfect ear of sweet corn in your gardens to avoid using neonicotinoid coated seed. I don’t have links handy but the evidence I have read seems to conclusively show that this class of chemicals is devastating to bees. For me the sound of bees gathering pollen on a nice stand of corn is the sweetest music around, seems a shame to kill 'em in exchange.

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Interesting. Everything I’ve read says bees don’t work corn unless it is an absolute last resort.

Has anyone compared these varieties with peaches and cream sweet corn? Thats what we grow each year and it has a sweetness and texture i havent found in other varieties. I can also save the seeds from it.

Jordan’s in the twin cities sells Attribute BT sweet corn, 2 named varieties, 25K kernel minimum. $274.50
Performance, BT and RR. 6 varieties, 2 are 2.5k pouch $50. 25k ~$350-400
All varieties are augmented sh2.
Any GMO sweet corn sales require a technology license agreement number before shipping.
A bunch of companies will sell you any kind of sweet corn you want, any color, any maturity, any variety of differing sugar content. Non GMO corn is about half the price of the GMO’s and I can cut out alot of earworm damage for that much money.
What I need is deer and raccoon resistant corn!!

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I’ve had some great corn called peaches and cream, but I think that name has become so generic that its hard to know which is which. Now days it seems like any bi-color corn is called peaches and cream, especially at markets, roadside stands, etc. There are some bi-color super sweets, but also are some regular sweet corn varieties that are bi-colored. So its hard to say. You mentioned that you save seeds. If I understand it correctly, I think you can tell the super-sweet (sh2) varieties because the seeds are completely shriveled up. I know the honey select seeds barely look like corn as a seed.

Either way, @Mickster , sounds like you are a fan of sweet corn too! Is there anything better than fresh sweet corn ?

If you are saying they sell super sweet corn that is Bt and RR for $50 for 2,500, I’m just dumb enough to do that. But I sure know nothing about the technology license and wonder if they would give me one just as a small, private grower? Sounds like you know this stuff.

Can you get the license agreement and will it be worth your investment in time and $$? Only you can say.
To know all the arrangements in today’s corn takes a Phd and I’m just a reader not a breeder.

Your answer and info was incredibly helpful and I’ve spent the last 15 minutes reading about “Performance Sweet Corn” and its varieties (that you mentioned) and it has the exact qualities I was asking for when I started this thread. I’ve also found some sellers that have 2,500 seeds for $45 and $50 (again, just like you said). They say you need a Montsanto licence number. The huge commercial farmer across the road from me is always going on trips and getting free gifts from Montsanto (yes, that is a sign of the problems/corruption with big-ag today, but not the point of my thread) and buys all his seeds from them. So I’m sure he could get some. I’m not saying I’m going to have him buy me some because I’m guessing that would be illegal, but its interesting knowing it is out there and available to some .

Thanks for the great information. Bees, Corn, chickens, fruit…anything you don’t know, Phil?

Fresh picked sweet corn is awesome. How do you grow yours thecityman? I’ve had issues with the corn falling over when the wind blows. I think I’m not planting it deep enough and am going to try a new method this year.

My Grandma, who grew up on a farm taught me to plant two or even three seeds together so the roots can intertwine and help support each other.

I have had corn fall over and staked them up, they soon didn’t need the stake. I didn’t lose one.

I’m growing Illini XtraSweet sh2 this year, It is a favorite of a friend of mine. So many to choose from. I only grow about 50 plants at best, maybe less. Sh2 seems like the way to go for storage and the ability to freeze and not lose sugar.
So far all have been good, Last time I grew Silver Choice SE, and some said it was the best they ever had. It’s hard to go wrong with any of these.
My biggest problem is planting time. It must be warm, so here I don’t plant till sometime in June.

That may be true, but here in a decidedly urban environment they seem to work it pretty hard when it’s on. I don’t raise bees myself but within a 10± mile radius of us there are 3 or 4 people who get enough honey to advertise and sell their surplus, so it doesn’t seem a terrible place for beekeeping. The one year we grew a 1200 sq.ft. stand of blue field corn (don’t remember the variety) the noise level was kind of staggering when the pollen was flying. So perhaps if there is plenty of nectar to be gathered they don’t bother. But where better to gather pollen than a stand of corn if that’s what the hive needs?
I’m not trying to hijack the thread, I just thought it was a good place to bring the subject up because of your willingness to acknowledge differing opinions on GMO and the fact that this is a discussion between commtted corn gardeners. For a variety of reasons I’m not a fan of GMO but I think they need to be looked at individually not just “they’re bad mmmk”. Having said that I do think there are accepted agricultural practices other than the big GMO crops that are clearly dangerous for all of us and I think neonic coated seed is one of them.
Beyond all of that I hope everyone has a bumper crop of their best ever corn.
Good luck, Tom

Wow, this stuff must be potent to last at least 3 months, when only put on seed. I spray my fruit trees all year, multiple times it would be nice just to spray once. Of course it would be after bloom. I won’t use this product though, not till more research is done. I know honey bees have multiple problems, it’s not just insecticides. Many think the immune systems are weakened by other factors. I also find it ironic in many ways as honey bees are an invasive species.

That’s a good point. Unfortunately, it’s probably difficult to find commercial seed which doesn’t have a neonic coating, for control of root insects. That said, the biggest problem I know of is when the seeds are planted with vacuum planters. Apparently, when these planters are cleaned, the neonic dust blows everywhere, including blooming weeds. As I recall the bees can even mistake the neonic as pollen and pick it up, which of course is disastrous.

I think the research on whether or not the actual seed coating can have any effect on the bees by making it’s way into the adult plant from the seed coating is mixed. Certainly the EU banned a lot of these seed coatings, but there’s also a lot of research which indicates it’s not harmful to bees. Although it is duly noted that some neonics are very slow to break down in the soil, and so could be absorbed in the plant. But it’s a very very small amount on the seed coating.

Personally, having used neonics carefully in my orchard (and seeing lots of bees - last year a friend caught a swarm at the orchard) my thought is the biggest disadvantage to bees is destruction of wild habitat. Acres and acres of corn and soybeans (or any monocrop) leave little food for our lady friends. :worried:

So true Chikn. I filled the license agreements online, and there were like 6 of them. I got tired of reading them and just clicked “yes”. I didn’t even know which forms were required, since they were for different companies - Bayer, etc. Normally, I’m a little more careful about these things, but all the other farmers are signing them, and the companies have you over a barrel if you want to use their seed, so I signed them.

What was bizarre is that they want to verify it’s really you electronically signing the documents, so you have to give them the last four digits of your social security number and answer some personal multiple choice questions. I have know idea how they know your social, or the answers to the personal questions (ex. have you ever owned a 1989 Ford Ranger) but they do. Very strange.

Cityman, if you do choose to get a license agreement, I don’t think there would be any reason you couldn’t. It took me about 15 min. to wade through the documents (longer if you actually read and tried to understand everything) but they don’t ask you how many acres you farm or anything like that. It didn’t cost any money to fill out the license agreements. But this was not license agreements to produce seed corn, but just to buy it.

I had read that the planting process was the most hazardous point. Perhaps you are
right about the minuscule amount present in the corn pollen I’m just skeptical of such a
long lasting systemic and think that people ought to at least be aware of the debate so
they can make informed decisions. It would seem that you do make informed decisions
but having read many of your posts on the old Gardenweb site I can’t say I’m surprised.
You are probably right about ready availability of uncoated modern corn seed, I hadn’t thought
of that since I typically buy a couple packets of some old heirloom I’ve never heard of and plant that.
Not being a big fan of sweet corn and having a real taste for cornbread that works fine for me
because that stuff is almost never offered in a coated version.Additionally for what it’s worth
I’ve read that there are two classes of neonics, nitro based and cyano based with the
cyano based showing lower bee toxicity so it appears there are options. Thanks for the dialogue.

          All the best, Tom
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