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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 Upper Midwest

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 upper Midwest;.
3)take the lead in breeding/evaluation for altered amino acid content and nitrogen utilization;.
4)participate in USTN trials and pre-trials;.
5)cooperate in on-farm evaluations and stress nurseries.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Conduct joint trials using locations in the upper Midwest, and using the improved breeding populations that each breeder has developed. In year one, each breeder will submit approximately ten 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 opcrosses, 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 striptrial 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:

The overall emphasis of the Mandaamin Institute work is to produce new hybrids that have high protein quality (methionine and lysine), high carotenoid content, and are adapted for high productivity under organic or low input farming systems, including under low nitrogen conditions. Being researched is whether these cultivars might also be able to avoid pollination from transgenic corn due to possessing a set of gametophytic incompatibility genes. In order to bring the effort ahead in the most feasible way the cooperator has had strategic conversations with members of the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) team and others. Our effort so far has created breeding lines, some have high methionine, lysine, and carotenoids, some have potential for efficient nitrogen use, and some have gametophytic incompatibility genes. Many of these lines have combinations of the above mentioned traits. Such lines were developed from our populations and from crosses between our breeding lines and ex-PVP lines. We need more information on our best populations and on the suitability of our existing breeding lines (especially those with high methionine) for making competitive commercial hybrids. This information will enable us to determine which lines and populations deserve more breeding work. In conjunction with USDA or by ourselves, we have introgressed several Gametophytic Incompatibility Genes (GIGs) into different breeding lines. To proceed further in combining those genes into usable cultivars we need basic information on the efficacy and presence of these genes in these lines. Various landraces have shown potential for a high degree of nitrogen efficiency in conjunction with inoculation with a suite of nitrogen fixing bacteria. We have developed breeding lines from crosses with those landraces. We need methods for detecting and screening for nitrogen fixation that would be suited for development of new highly nitrogen efficient inbreds. Eight open pollinated breeding populations were sent to Ames, IA, Maroa, IL, Ithaca, NY, and Las Cruces, NM for cooperative population trials. These populations represent some of the better open pollinated populations used at Mandaamin Institute for developing inbreds and some are a replication of varieties sent the previous year. In addition, a set of populations was received from Cornell, Montgomery Consulting, and USDA for cooperative testing. Those populations are being compared with populations from Mandaamin Institute on each site, including in a randomized, complete block experiment in Delavan, WI managed by Mandaamin Institute. In the fall, in accordance with an intellectual property agreement with MFAI, the cooperator made first choice of seed from the MFAI breeding nurseries. That seed was hand selected for kernel texture and the best putative high methionine lines were sent to plant 720 rows in the PR nursery in November. The plants grew somewhat unevenly due to moisture stress but approximately 4,500 pollinations were made. The seed that was received from PR in Wisconsin after harvest had less mold than in other years and appeared to be of good quality but was smaller than what is normal for Wisconsin (the same three inbreds received back from PR had 79 percent as heavy seed as what was sent). In Wisconsin seed received back from PR were bulked for specific varieties and hybrids. Records, seed counts and hybrid seed were then sent to USDA-ARS at Ames. With the assistance of ARS in Ames, IA, Mandaamin hybrids have been planted in May on four organic sites in Iowa (Jefferson, Polk City, McCallsburg, Ames-Marsden) and in Wisconsin near Delavan on an organic farm with two replications per site. The relevant clusters of 550 hybrids included four sites with ‘culture shock’ hybrids (testing the effects of selection under organic conditions on inbreds and hybrids); four sites with ‘microbial responder’ hybrids (made by crossing breeding lines that responded to microbial inoculation with higher protein yield). Numerous high methionine and lysine hybrids made in PR were also planted on all sites. The Delavan, WI site, planted by Mandaamin, is approximately 2.5 acres of test plots and included more of the high methionine hybrids than were tested on the other sites. Three isolations using our own high methionine testers were planted on two cooperating organic farms in order to generate hybrid seed for 2013. The two sites on one biodynamic-organic farm in Elkhorn, WI are each approximately one acre in size; and one at another farm in Delavan, Wisconsin is about one quarter acre in size. We hope to generate seed of some crosses in large enough amounts to do some small strip tests in 2013. Approximately four acres were strip planted on an organic farm near Elkhorn, WI with different high methionine populations. These plantings may enable recombination by hand pollination of the earliest plants and for producing grain for feeding tests with cooperating poultry businesses. A breeding nursery was planted near Elkhorn, WI (1080 rows) which included cultivars containing different GIGs, and others. By means of test crosses we will attempt to identify the cultivars that truly possess GIGs and actively use them to protect the plant from foreign pollen. We also are continuing the breeding (selfing) process with our best proven inbred lines and with promising new breeding lines and making test crosses in the nursery between those lines. We continue to develop high methionine corn for commercial production through testing and breeding. We planted one acre of test trials of our most promising nitrogen efficient lines on a sand site with 0.2 percent organic matter. We have been monitoring the color of leaves as an indication of chlorophyll content which correlates strongly with nitrogen content. There are clear differences between cultivars for color over repeated measurements. However, potassium and phosphorus deficiency is a complicating factor that needs to be dealt with in future experiments on this site. We have a replicated United States Testing Network (USTN) experiment comparing different hybrids near Delavan, Wisconsin. In addition, we sent six of our putative best hybrids to six other USTN sites including Wooster, OH, Pen Yan, NY, McCallsburg, Jefferson, and Ames, IA, and Atlanta, IN. In the spring of 2012, twenty hybrids were sent to Montgomery Consulting in Maroa, IL for observation of disease and insects and agronomics. Seven bulks of 2,500 seed from each of five breeding sets were sent to Montgomery Consulting for cold shock treatment. From each of these, the most resistant 250 kernels were transplanted in Maroa, IL. Five of the populations are receiving irrigation at the present time in hopes of saving them from the drought. In addition to this we sent 17 hybrids to a cooperating seed company for growing on two sites; 15 to Blacksburg, VA and ten to Golden, CO and we hope to obtain disease and agronomic information from each grower. In addition we sent a set of open pollinated populations equivalent to that sent to OREI cooperators to growers in California, Oregon, and Colorado with a request for information on maturity and agronomic performance.


Last Modified: 4/16/2014
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