A new variety of sweet corn co-developed by agronomy professor and chair Bill Tracy has received some fairly extensive media coverage since its release was announced back in December. Just this past weekend, it was the focus of a lengthy and photo-studded Wisconsin State Journal article by Sandy Cullen. Read it here.
Cullen’s article gives a great overview of the project, including the impressive tidbit that ‘Who Gets Kissed?’ is the first new open-pollinated variety of sweet corn released in about 100 years. Most corn grown today is hybrid corn, with uniform plants and ears. The new open-pollinated variety, on the other hand, features much more variability in plant height and ear color, giving farmers some genetic wiggle room to improve it for their particular tastes, fields and climactic conditions.
The new variety, which is the result of a collaboration between CALS, organic farmers and the Organic Seed Alliance, was developed over the past 6 years or so. As Cullen’s story describes, when it came time to think of a name for the new variety, an old tradition popped into Tracy’s mind.
In colonial times (when corn was much more variable), someone lucky enough to find a red ear of corn during a husking bee would get to select a person in the room to kiss. In honor of that tradition, and to remind people the new variety is meant to be variable, the corn got its name: ‘Who Gets Kissed?’