We raise both dent and waxy corn on our farm. Whenever I mention waxy someone inevitably asks me, “What is waxy corn?” Even other corn growers tend to ask because it is not a large part of the overall corn market. Here in Indiana there are several markets for waxy corn.
What makes it waxy?
The starch content of the kernels is what separates waxy from regular yellow dent field corn. This is not a difference that can be seen by just looking at a corn field. Normal corn kernels consist of 75% amylopectin and 25% amylose while waxy varieties are nearly 100% amylopectin. The amylopection content makes waxy suitable for a number of uses for both food and other industries. After the wet milling process the resulting starch is used as a thickener and stabilizer in many food products. Waxy also makes good adhesives. Cardboard boxes may contain glue made from waxy corn. The sticky backing on envelopes is another adhesive product.
Why do we grow it?
For us raising waxy isn’t really any different from producing regular field corn. We do have to ensure we keep our waxy separated from the dent corn in storage, but this is not hard to do at all. Each load we deliver is tested by the refiner to be sure we are delivering a waxy product. Waxy is a recessive trait meaning there is a chance of pollen from nearby corn affecting the starch content. However, this hasn’t been an issue for us on delivery. In 2013 we set aside some acres for a seed dealer to plant a dent corn test plot. It happened to work out the plot was in the middle of a waxy field. We had no problems at testing.
Because we have markets to sell waxy, growing it is a good business decision for us because we also earn a premium price over the current corn market price. For the 2014 crop we are working with a $0.55 per bushel premium. With the yield checks I’ve performed so far this summer we’re looking at around $100/acre more revenue than dent corn assuming the same yield. Normally the waxy we grow tends to be conventional seed rather than GMO. The lower seed cost helps us make more per acre on the front end of the growing season.
So why don’t we grow 100% waxy? Waxy acres are contracted with the refiner, and they only need so much corn. With margins looking to get tighter in 2015 it would be nice to raise more waxy corn, but we are going to be coming off two very high yield years in a row so I doubt anyone is going to be seeking more acres. Going all in with a grower could also increase the risk of those acres being affected by localized weather, pests, or disease.
Waxy yields for us have been pretty close to dent corn yields. Waxy tends to yield slightly less, but the premium selling price more than makes up any difference. We deliver all our waxy to Tate & Lyle in Lafayette, Indiana. That location isn’t much further than were most of our other corn goes, but there is a slight bit more trucking cost. In the past we have delivered waxy to Indianapolis and Hammond. The Lafayette location is much closer, and delivery only there has taken a lot of yearly mileage of our trucks.
Raising waxy allows us to sell into a niche market without any special equipment. We raise popcorn as well with all the same equipment. I always surprised to find out people don’t realize popcorn and field corn are two different crops, but that’s a post for another day!
Have any more questions about our waxy corn? Please leave a comment below!