Ornamental Corn & Broomcorn
Ornamental corn (Zea mays) production currently represents a new crop for Kentucky, in terms of limited University of Kentucky research. There are many kinds of ornamental corn, varying in ear size, kernel color, husk, and stalk color. Some cultivars have red or purple stalks and leaves that are sold for decorative purposes.
Potential markets for ornamental corn include farmers markets, produce auctions, and roadside stands. Local retail markets, such as supermarkets, are also an option. In these markets, the corn is often sold in three-ear bunches. In addition, stores that specialize in decorative and craft items may present options for wholesale buyers. Some producers have discovered an opportunity delivering and setting up fall yard displays using corn and other fall ornamentals. Growers who host pumpkin tours, grow other fall crops, or have corn mazes should consider growing ornamental corn.
A well-drained soil is essential to achieve high-quality ears of ornamental corn. A good seedbed is necessary for successful seed germination and a good plant start. Fields that have been in fescue sod are ideal for ornamental corn production, but the use of soil-applied insecticides at planting is probably warranted. The field should be plowed several weeks before planting and then disked three to four times. If no-till production is planned, a non-selective herbicide should be applied prior to planting. To mature in time for a mid-September harvest, plantings should be made between May 15 and May 25.