Package and Practices of Pop corn (Zea mays var. everta)
Authors: Deepa Joshi, Archana Bhat, Arpita Sharma and Onima V.T.

• Pop corn (Zea mays var. everta) is the most primitive of the surviving race of corn, characterized by a very hard, corneous endosperm containing only a small portion of soft starch.

• Pop corn is essentially small-kernelled flint type.

• In pop corn several grain colours are grown viz., white, yellow, red etc. However, yellow types are more common.

• When kernels of popcorn are heated, they explode and produce large puffed flakes (popping). Once popped, pop corn has two basic shapes:

Ø Snowflake or butterfly, which pops big and is shaped like a cumulus cloud;

Ø Mushroom, which pops into a round ball.



Climate:

• Pop corn requires considerable moisture and warmth from germination to flowering.

• The most suitable temperature for germination is 21°C and for growth 32°C.

• Extremely high temperature and low humidity during flowering period damage the foliage desiccate the pollen and interfere with proper pollination, resulting in poor grain formation.



Soil:

• Any type soil suitable for normal corn should produce a good pop corn.

• Soil pH should be in the range of 6.5 to 7.5 to get a good crop.

• Medium to coarse textured soils, which warm slightly faster than fine-textured soils, should improve germination, emergence and seedling establishment.

• The pop corn root system is less extensive than that of normal corn.

• Therefore, high clay soils and or poorly drained soils will weaken the roots, increase lodging and ultimately reduce corn yield.



Sowing time:

• Last week of May to the first fortnight of July.

• Planting later than 15th July often results in a reduction of yield.

• Early planting permits the crop to mature and reach the desired harvesting moisture of 15-18% by early to mid-October.

• Rabi sowing preferably is completed in between October end and middle of November so that the crop can establish itself before the onset of winter.



Seed and sowing method:

• Seed rate for popcorn is lower than for normal corn because of its smaller kernel size.

• Seed was dibbled on the side of the ridges at a spacing of 15-20 cm keeping 3-4 cm seed depth.

• Plant population - 80,000 to 83,000 plants/ha.

• Seed rate of popcorn varieties is 12-14 kg/ha.



Varieties:

• There are three types of pop corn kernels viz., white, yellow and red kernels.

Ø White pop corn has a rice-shaped kernel

Ø Yellow pop corn kernels are pearl-shaped.

Varieties Recommended areas Characteristics Yield (q/ha)
Amber Pop Across the country particularly in Andhra Pradesh and Peninsular India Suitable for irrigated conditions, Maturity period: 80-90 days in kharif and 95-100 days in rabi. 25-30
Jawahar Pop corn 11 Madhya Pradesh Medium in grain size, Kernel colour yellowish orange, Maturity period early-medium, Plant height:170-205 cm and Suitable for intercropping 30-40
Pearl Pop Across the country Medium in kernel size, Kernel colour white pearl and Maturity period: 85-95 days. 25-30
VL Amber Hills of Uttarakand, Uttar Pradesh and Himalayan belt Kernel size small, hard, bright orange, Plant height 175-180 cm, Maturity period -100-105 days, Tolerant to leaf blight and Excellent popping quality. 20-25


Maturity:
Pop corn matures in 85-90 days in kharif and 95-105 days in rabi.
Since kernels are the monetary product, harvest should necessarily be done on the attainment of physiological maturity, which is evidenced by the formation of a black polyphenol layer at the base of the kernels.
For optimum popping expansion the pop corn should be dried to 14-15% grain moisture.

Harvesting and Storage:
Either ear or shelled popcorn may be harvested.
Moisture at harvesting for ear corn should be 18-20% and for shelled corn 16-18%.
Relative humidity of 70% will maintain the grain at the proper moisture.
Kernels that are too dry will not pop properly.

Popping Quality:
The quality of pop corn is expressed as popped volume, shape of the popped kernels, tenderness, and flavour.
The conventional oil popping methods are still most common. However, air popping and microwave popping are becoming increasingly important in the retail market.
Popping expansion of the commercially occupied pop corn varieties in USA is 40: 1, while that in India is just 20: 1.
Kernels with thick pericarp, hard coating with soft starch cavity inside. Popping ratio of pop corn is very much dependent on storage as well as popping temperature and moisture.


About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing Ph.d. in Agronomy from National Dairy Research Institute.