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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research

2010 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The objectives of this research are to 1) breed high yielding corn with enhanced nutritional value for the Northern Corn Belt, 2) adapt the corn to the conditions found on farms using sustainable farming practices, and 3) achieve acceptance of these cultivars by end users such as livestock farmers and poultry producers.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
1)Interact with a team including USDA and ISU scientists and PFI to select varieties for breeding, plan experiments, test corn, develop methods for screening lines for desired traits, and for outreach and publication efforts. 2)Utilize a crossing, inbreeding and test-cross facilitated breeding program to identify and fix corn lines with desired traits, and crossing and recurrent selection to improve desired traits such as the content of methionine and lysine in grain. 3)In conjunction with others, fully utilize and improve the accuracy of a near infra red spectroscopy-based test for screening whole grain samples for essential amino acids. 4)Evaluate the adaptation of lines and their hybrids to organic farming systems in the Northern Corn Belt, including their agronomic traits and their ability to suppress weeds. 5)Help coordinate on-farm trials with hybrids and publicize the results. 6)Interact with end-users such as seed and organic poultry companies with advice and to help facilitate poultry company sponsored feeding trials with grain from our cultivars.

3. Progress Report
Selected plants from cultivars and crosses produced in previous years were self pollinated, and the resulting ears were screened during the winter of 2009/2010 for their grain methionine and lysine (amino acids essential for nutrition) content. The best seed was planted in 2010 for further breeding under organic conditions. We have identified soft endosperm cultivars and breeding lines that have a higher percentage of lysine and methionine in their protein and have greater stability in producing methionine than hard endosperm cultivars. A gene that confers soft endosperm and high lysine and methionine content, also reduces seed weight and yield by about 10%. We have identified unique lines that produce high methionine content but do not reduce seed weight. Much of our focus in 2010 was on moving this trait into a wide set of cultivars. Trials in six states on nine conventional farming and nine organic sites suggested that our hard endosperm high methionine corn averaged higher yields on organic sites (87%) than on conventional sites (81%) relative to the average for normal hybrids at 100%. The high methionine hybrids did not appear to differ from normal hybrids in lodging and showed a normal range in grain moisture content. Data from one site with controlled pollination showed the high methionine hybrids averaged 12.9% protein and 0.28% methionine on a total dry weight basis. This is approximately 43% more protein and methionine than was found in normal corn hybrids. Initial projections from data on one site suggest that the high methionine hybrids produced approximately 33% more protein and methionine per acre than conventional hybrids, but approximately 13% less starch. We are working with one corn breeding company to move our high methionine trait into their inbreds. Additional research is being conducted with Nitrogen use efficiency and Nitrogen fixation to the plant by endophytic bacteria and involves funding from the Ceres Foundation. The Authorized Department Officer's Designated Representative monitors activities for the project by frequent mutual visits, phone calls, and emails for joint planning of experiments, sharing nursery rows and yield tests, sharing results and germplasm, and reporting results.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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