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Corn's Wow Factor

Bill Tracy knew it was coming. But the burst of sweetness from the ear of corn he’d just bitten into was so swift that he could offer just one word of critique: “Wow!”

That’s a common reaction to the new hybrid developed by Tracy’s breeding program. Nicknamed Wow corn, its kernels pack a sweet wallop without sacrificing deeper flavors, making it a potentially attractive option for fresh-market growers.

“We’re very excited about this corn,” says Tracy. “It’s a combination of naturally occurring genes that has never existed before, and it results in a very nice flavor. Literally every person who has ever bitten into it, the first thing they say is, ‘Wow!’”

As director of one of the country’s only sweet-corn breeding programs, Tracy continues to look for ways to improve the popular staple, grown on around 80,000 acres in Wisconsin each year. The new variety, first evaluated in 2008, could be released to growers within two or three years.