Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: September 21, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Corn is very important in our economy. Hybrids that farmers grow are often closely related, and use very little of the world's germplasm. Because the germplasm base of our corn is so narrow problems such as disease or insect epidemics may occur. A project designed to diversify U.S. hybrids by developing new corn lines containing good foreign germplasm, called the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) project, has been organized. The project has 22 seed companies and 42 government and university scientists working together to improve the germplasm base of hybrids grown by American farmers.
Technical Abstract: Maize is extremely important to the U.S. economy, but less than 1% of the U.S. germplasm base consists of exotic germplasm leading to concerns about the genetic vulnerability of the crop. The Latin American Maize Project (LAMP) involved the cooperative efforts of 12 countries to evaluate their native maize germplasm accessions. For any of the LAMP accessions to be useful, some mechanism had to be established to enhance them so they could enter commercial maize breeding channels. A coordinated and cooperative effort among public and private sectors, the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize project (GEM), was organized to provide to the maize industry materials developed using germplasm enhancement of useful exotic germplasm, with the ultimate aim of improving and broadening the germplasm base of maize hybrids grown by American farmers. Traits targeted for improvement are agronomic productivity, disease and insect resistance, and value-added characteristics. GEM provides the social returns (agricultural diversity) to justify its public support, and the potential for private returns to justify private participation. GEM's success seems to be due to the following factors: federal leadership, collaboration between the public and private sectors, in-kind support from the private sector, emphasis on good communication, well-defined intellectual property rights, trust, and use of only the best exotic and adapted germplasm.