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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Strengthening Public Corn Breeding to Ensure That Organic Farmers Have Access to Elite Cultivars: Breeding for the Northeast

Location: Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1) Contribute populations to and provide testing sites/evaluations for a joint experiment to catalog germplasm for organic production,.
2)cooperate in a breeding effort concentrating on the northeast,.
3)take the lead in breeding/evaluation for host plant resistance to foliar pathogens gray leaf spot, northern leaf blight, anthracnose leaf blight and stalk rot,.
4)participate in USTN trials and pre-trials, and.
5)cooperate in on-farm evaluations and stress nurseries.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Conduct joint trials using locations in the northeast, and using the improved breeding populations that each breeder has developed. In year one each breeder will submit approximately 10 populations, thereafter the best performing populations will be retested while additional populations from the breeders’ programs or acquired elsewhere are evaluated. Identify and test superior parents on a somewhat continuous basis, so there is a constant flow of our best hybrids to farmers and seed companies for testing and increase. Make numerous crosses between parents with desired traits, hybridizing those crosses with multiple testers, examining the hybrid test crosses in yield trials and thereby identifying the best crosses to work with, then selfing the best of those families to the S3 stage while systematically testing resulting lines in test crosses. The best S3 lines will be further tested, selected, and developed as inbreds for making hybrids or recombined to make synthetics which will receive additional testing to identify those that best fit the organic ideotype. Because speed is essential we plan to do early and repeated testing for combining ability in top cross hybrids allowing resources to be devoted to those populations that demonstrate the greatest potential early on. Winter nurseries will be used to make new crosses, to self F2 plants, to make necessary topcrosses, and to self the summer’s topcrosses to test their grain quality. Experimental hybrids from the breeding programs will be tested in small replicated plot trials at cooperating organic farms managed by the breeder. In addition, selected varieties from the plot trials will be tested in large strip-trial plots on farms. Breeding lines will be evaluated for stress and pest resistance in breeding nurseries and specialized testing will be done at a stress nursery in Illinois.


3.Progress Report:

During the current fiscal year, we completed a summer breeding nursery including organic and pest resistant selections; harvested and presented data from organic hybrid and population trials and United States Testing Network (USTN) trials; carried out an organic winter breeding nursery; and established a second year of summer breeding nursery and yield trial plots. These activities are described below in more detail, focusing first on breeding nursery and then on yield trial activities. Our 2011 summer breeding nursery at Aurora, NY included over 200 rows of progenies for observation and selection in a certified organic nursery, 421 progenies for disease resistance observation and selection, and 470 progenies for insect resistance observation and selection. A project aiming to breed hybrids that could minimize the chances of contamination by genetically engineered corn was pursued in about 180 breeding nursery rows. Among these nursery rows, those families and plants that showed the best performance were pollinated and subjected to further selection at harvest. These and other germplasm sources were advanced another generation in a 660 row organic winter breeding nursery in Lajas, Puerto Rico. Despite weather related planting date challenges in Puerto Rico, we had a good winter nursery and were able to get seed back from most rows. Our summer 2012 breeding nursery was planted in late May and includes over 400 rows being selected under organic management, 590 rows being selected for disease resistance traits, and over 200 rows being selected for insect resistance. Additionally, we have about 150 breeding rows dedicated to development of hybrids that will minimize the potential for pollination by genetically-engineered corn pollen and provide markers for any accidental contaminations in plants and seed. Selection and pollination will be made in all of this material in summer 2012. Yield trial activities during this project period included harvest and data analysis of 2011 trials and establishment of 2012 yield trials. In October and November of 2011, we harvested yield trials from one organic site that included; an evaluation of 22 experimental hybrids/varieties from our breeding program compared with six checks in three replications, a two-replication evaluation of 33 breeding populations (some from each of the collaborating breeding programs working on this project) compared with three checks, and a USTN trial of 26 experimental hybrids evaluated in two replications. Data were summarized and shared as appropriate. Among our Cornell-developed experimental hybrids and varieties, nine of them performed well enough to merit a second year of testing in 2012. These nine were combined with twelve new experimental hybrids from Cornell and four checks were planted in three replications in each of two organic locations this year. Another breeding population trial (34 populations in two replications) and a USTN organic trial (16 varieties in two replications) were planted at one organic location. All trials have been thinned to a uniform plant density and will be rated for any diseases and insects that show uniform damage, scored for stalk and root lodging, and harvested to assess grain yield and moisture. From this breeding program, organic seed of one hybrid is being produced and marketed commercially. The work being done as part of our organic corn breeding effort was described at a winter meeting of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York and at the winter meeting of the Northern Grain Growers Association in Vermont.


Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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