Sweet corn cultivation secured high profit for tribal farmers in Mizoram during COVID-19 Lockdown period

The Maize, being one of the principal cereals grown in the shifting cultivation (jhum) lands of Lusai Hills of Mizoram, the majority of the local jhum maize cultivars grown by farmers here are low yield, often has long maturity duration. The local food preference (taste) of the low yielder sticky maize lines (mimban; yield 1.04-2.84 kg m-2) limits the large scale adaptation of other high yielding maize hybrids in the jhum lands of Mizoram.

The ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research, Ludhiana, Punjab in collaboration with the ICAR-Research Complex for North-Eastern Hills Region, Umiam, Meghalaya introduced a project titled “Promoting improved Technology of maize production in NEH Region” to out-scale the improved maize production technologies in the region. Under the programme, the farmers practicing both jhum (rainfed) and settled agriculture (in the low lying areas in Rabi season) were introduced with the sweet corn cultivation. The farmers fetched a steep rise in their annual income from the year around large scale sweet corn cultivation.

Sweet corn cultivation secured high profit for tribal farmers in Mizoram during COVID-19 Lockdown period  Sweet corn cultivation secured high profit for tribal farmers in Mizoram during COVID-19 Lockdown period

At Tuichhuahen village (Kolasib District), the existing cultivation of local jhum mimban lines was replaced by the sweet corn under the project compliance. Smt. Zonunsangi, Principal Investigator successfully cultivated sweet corn (sole crop) replacing local mimban under Slash and Burn agriculture in the steep hill slopes without any fertilizer application or use of plant protection chemicals during the pre-Kharif season.

Inspired by her success, the farmers in the nearby low lying valley areas of Tuichhuahen village also adapted the standardized package of practices for growing the Rabi sweet corn in the rice fallows (September to February) as developed by the ICAR-Research Complex for NEH Region, Mizoram Centre.

The introduction of sweet corn cultivation during early 2018 resulted in the gradual expansion in the maize area, particularly under the Rabi sweet corn cultivation in the nearby streambed areas of Tuichhuahen village (29.3% increase over past two years). Many of the regular large scale sweet corn growers (mostly October sown) harvested their produce (green tender cobs) periodically from 4th week of January to 2nd fortnight of February in Tuichhuahen village.

Shri Vanlalruaii, one of the first farmers to adapt the sweet corn cultivation (replacing Rabi cultivation of local frenchbean-rajma) became a model sweet corn grower in his village. He grows sweet corn crops in a large area at commercial scale with a single sowing window (mid-October) to meet the huge market demand. He followed the integrated nutrient management practices with combined source of nutrient supplementation (inorganic and organic; 80-60-40 NPK + FYM @ 5 t ha-1) for growing Rabi sweet corn.

Shri Vanlalhriata agreed to leave his traditional Rabi crop options of growing vegetable mustard (locally known as feren) at subsistence level. He was much reluctant to apply any chemical fertilizers or pesticides in his field. He followed five consecutive sweet corn sowing dates that varied from September - 2019 to January - 2020. In such a situation, two models of Rabi sweet corn cultivation, that is, commercial scale and organic sweet corn at small scale were deployed at farmers’ fields. In both the cases, the farmers-owned two cow units were used to prepare well rotten FYM (@ 10.0 t ha-1) that was applied during the initial field preparation. The average sweet corn plant population was maintained as 8 plants per square meter. These sweet corn cultivation practices mostly relied on the engagement of respective family labor of the adapted farmers.

Shri Vanlalruaii engaged one extra hired labor in addition to his existing family labor (~8 male man days for Shri Vanlalruaii and 6 male man days for Shri Vanlalhriata) during the Rabi sweet corn for sowing only. For the rest of their sweet corn cultivation schedule, the farmers’-owned family laborers were engaged to execute all the allied farming activities.


During 2019-20, Smt. Zonunsangi earned 110.3% more from jhum sweet corn cultivation over her traditional cultivation practice of local sticky type mimban lines in the past years. The average increase in net earning varied between 32.5% (frenchbean) to 73.2% (vegetable mustard) for sole Rabi sweet corn cultivation over the traditionally practiced Rabi vegetable (local) cropping options.

Moreover, the sweet corn farming at subsistence (multiple sowing windows) secured ~20.6% more income for Shri Vanlalhriata than Shri Vanlalruaii (adapting single sowing window), particularly during COVID-19 lockdown (experienced ~26% marginal rise in market price from the sudden disruption of normal supply chain).

Sweet corn cultivation secured high profit for tribal farmers in Mizoram during COVID-19 Lockdown period  Sweet corn cultivation secured high profit for tribal farmers in Mizoram during COVID-19 Lockdown period

Thus, it is evident that the sweet corn cultivation has considerable potential to increase the net farming profitability (~68%) for the tribal farmers in Mizoram. The subsistent level organic sweet corn cultivation often resulted in marginal rise in individual farmer’s income from the periodic price fluctuations of sweet corn in the local Kolasib market; particularly during the nationwide lockdown from sudden onslaught of COVID-19 global pandemic. Since 2018, a total of 16.3 ha area was covered under the participatory demonstration and 62 beneficiarieres were benefited under the collaborative project.

Table 1: Detailed production economics of sweet corn cultivation at Tuichhuahen village (Kolasib district, Mizoram) over ~200 m2 area*


Farmers name/Particulars



Economics (INR)

B: C ratio

Cost of cultivation#

Gross return#

Net returns#

Shifting/ rainfed cultivation (pre-kharif; April to July)

Mrs. Zonunsangi

Jhum mimban (sole crop; green cob harvest) @






Sweet corn (sole)






Irrigated low lying areas (rabi; September to February)

Mr. Vanlalruaii

Frenchbean (bush type rajma) @






Sweet corn (sole)






Mr. Vanlalhriata

Local vegetable mustard (sole feren) @






Sweet corn (sole)






Average (62 sole sweet corn growers/ targeted beneficiaries)






(Note: *family labour engaged in sweet corn production; #Average price of sold sweet corn- Rs. 20 kg-1; @ traditional initial cropping options practiced in the river valley areas at Tuichhuahen village)

(Source: ICAR Research Complex for North Eastern Hills Region, Mizoram Centre, Mizoram & ICAR-Indian Institute of Maize Research, Ludhiana, Punjab)