Matt Krakowsky coordinates the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) project in the southeast in conjunction with the maize breeding program at NC State University.
The GEM project is a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors to increase the genetic diversity of maize grown in the US. Increased diversity can reduce vulnerability to current and future potential abiotic and biotic stresses, in particular introduced diseases, and can increase the potential of maize for use as a biofuel and expand the ranges of kernel traits that have important industrial uses, such as starch quality.
Most of the maize grown in the US is derived from a limited ancestral pool, and much of the genetic diversity in the species is present only in exotic, unadapted accessions. To move this diversity from the accessions into the commercial breeding programs, the GEM project relies on private sector collaborators to develop breeding crosses by crossing the unadapted accessions to their elite temperate germplasm.
Further breeding work is performed in Raleigh, and yield trials are conducted in North Carolina and coordinated through our cooperators at several locations throughout the southeast and southern Cornbelt. Promising germplasm is recommended to the GEM cooperators, who consist of most of the private companies in the US (and several based in other countries) as well as many public sector maize research projects; this germplasm becomes publicly available after two years.
We are also working to improve access to the diversity present in maize accessions that are not agronomically promising but that may contain other traits of interest, such as disease resistance or desirable starch composition. The growing season is longer in North Carolina than the Midwest, allowing us to work with less adapted, more exotic germplasm than would otherwise be feasible.
The goal of the GEM project is to provide diverse, semi-exotic germplasm that can be readily incorporated into commercial maize breeding programs and evaluated by maize researchers in temperate environments.
Matt Krakowsky and Dale Dowden, GEM laboratory.
Genetic-Diversification Program Is a “GEM”
of a Resource for Corn Growers
Agricultural Research Magazine
September 2010 - Vol. 58, No. 8