USDA Researchers Create Highly
By Hank Becker
March 18, 1999
WASHINGTON, March 18Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman
announced today a new corn line developed by USDA scientists that outshines all previous
corn lines in its ability to naturally fend off aflatoxin, a fungal toxin that
poses a threat to humans and livestock. The corn line has been released to seed
companies and public research institutions for breeding purposes.
USDA research provides real world solutions for Americas farmers
to ensure their viability and profitability, said Glickman in remarks to
the leadership of the National Corn Growers
Association. Investment in agriculture research is even more critical
today so our farmers can maintain their competitive edge in the global
Contamination of corn grain by aflatoxin, made by certain fungi, can be a
food and feed safety problem. In 1998, record high temperatures and drought
caused aflatoxin levels in corn to soar in parts of the South. Growers' losses
have been estimated at $85 to $100 million in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
This new corn line from scientists at USDAs
Agricultural Research Service could be
an important step toward the long-term goal of commercial hybrids with strong
aflatoxin resistance. Currently, commercial hybrid corn with aflatoxin
resistance is not available to farmers.
The new corn line, named Mp715, has lower levels of infection with the
fungus and subsequent contamination with aflatoxin. It will take several years
before hybrids conventionally bred using Mp715 could be available.
Corn hybrids that resist both the fungus and its toxin are widely
considered the most efficient and reliable way to reduce the accumulation of
aflatoxin in corn grain," said ARS geneticist W. Paul Williams who helped
create this new corn line.
Williams and his colleagues, plant pathologist Gary L. Windham and
geneticist Georgia L. Davis, are working to identify the genes for reduced
fungal infection and toxin accumulation in the lines they have now.
Several major commercial seed companies have incorporated into their corn
breeding programs the toxin-resistant germplasm released earlier by ARS. To
expedite the transfer of resistance to commercial hybrids, ARS recently entered
into cooperative research and development agreements with two companies to
evaluate hybrids from their breeding programs this summer. ARS scientists will
evaluate 75 to 100 hybrids for resistance to aflatoxin accumulation.
Scientific contact: W. Paul Williams, ARS
Corn Host Plant
Resistance Research Unit, Mississippi State, Miss., phone (601) 325-2735,
fax (601) 325-8441, firstname.lastname@example.org.