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New Corn on Tap for Southeast Dairy Farmers

By Jan Suszkiw
May 25, 2000

Though its name sounds like a new Air force fighter jet, GT-HID9 is actually a source of yellow dent corn germplasm that should mean good news for southeastern dairy farmers. That good news could arrive in the form of new commercial hybrids developed from GT-HID9 primarily for two key traits: adaptability to the Southeast’s sandy Coastal Plain soils and warm southern climate, and fodder from whole plants that dairy cows can readily digest as either silage or forage.

Currently, few such hybrids are available to dairy farmers in southeastern states like South Carolina, Florida or Georgia, where 95 percent of corn is grown in the Coastal Plain. Now, with the April release of GT-HID9 seed to plant breeders, new silage hybrids could become commercially available to farmers within six years.

GT-HID9 itself is the product of 10 years of work by Agricultural Research Service scientists Neil Widstrom, Roger Gates and Glenn Burton, now retired, using a technique Burton first pioneered for breeding forage grasses, called restricted recurrent phenotypic selection. Widstrom and Gates are with ARS’ Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit, located at the University of Georgia’s Coastal Plain Experiment Station at Tifton.

There, from an old corn hybrid called Coker 77B, they propagated and screened thousands of inbred plants for desired forage and dairy silage properties. With the help of an in vitro procedure, and cow rumen, they finally zeroed in on GT-HID9, a plant population whose dry matter digestibility ranking exceeds Coker 77B’s by more than one percent. In the cow’s rumen, where microbes busily digest fiber, this seemingly minor increase actually means substantially more nutrients from silage becoming available for producing milk. A larger-scale trial is now underway to document this benefit in GT-HID9 silage-fed steers.

Seed samples can be requested from Widstrom using contact information given below. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific agency.

Scientific contact: Neil L. Widstrom, ARS Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit, Tifton, Ga., phone (912) 387-2341, fax (912) 387-2321,