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Marvin P Scott

Research Geneticist (Plants)

Corn Insect & Crop Genetics Research Unit

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Paul Scott
Research Geneticist
716 Farmhouse Lane
1407 Agronomy Hall
Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa 50011-4014
515-294-9359 (Fax)



Research InterestsUnderstanding the biochemical and genetic control of economically important traits in corn such as nutritional value and ability to exclude unwanted pollen.  

Aims: Increase the value, safety, and sustainability of corn used for food and feed.

Background: Corn is one of the most important crops in the world.  It is used for both food and feed as well as production of industrial products like ethanol, a renewable liquid fuel.   Corn is extremely productive and lends itself well to highly mechanized production systems geared to commodity markets.  The type of corn produced most widely in the U.S. (no.2 yellow dent corn) is poorly suited to food and feed uses because it is deficient in essential nutrients and has physical properties that are poorly suited to production of food products.  Specialty corn varieties optimized for specific end uses are preferred for many applications and add significant value to corn markets.   Popcorn, White food grade corn, Silage corn, organic corn, non-GMO corn, Waxy corn and High Amylose corn are examples of specialty corn varieties with added value.  While a large plant breeding industry has very successfully developed improved varieties for production of no.2 yellow dent corn, the relatively small markets for specialty corn have not attracted the interest of the plant breeding industry.  Basic research into genetic control of economically valuable traits and development of new specialty corn varieties complement the efforts of the plant breeding industry and impacts producers of specialty corn and users of specialty corn products through increased product quality, safety and sustainability.

Approach: Our research uses plant breeding, genomic and biotechnology methods.  This combination of tools provides a powerful approach to addressing complex problems in crop improvement.   We work cooperatively with researchers from Universities, NGOs and companies to meet the needs of our stakeholders.

Outcomes:  We have developed new specialty corn varieties with improved nutritional quality using several approaches.  These varieties are begin used by plant breeders all over the world.  In addition, we have gained insights into genetic and biochemical mechanisms that control nutritional quality supporting the research of others developing nutritionally improved crops.  We have assembled infrastructure for breeding corn for organic production systems and that has allowed us and cooperators to breed corn varieties specifically designed to meet the needs of organic producers.  Recently, we have proposed a model for the molecular mechanism of the Ga1 locus which is used to control unwanted pollinations in popcorn and corn for organic producers.