Location: Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research2008 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Develop maize germplasm for low-input and organic farming systems.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Organic farmers need germplasm that is not receptive to transgenic pollen from their neighbors as out-crossing risk is causing them to plant late, leading to reduced yields and profitability. Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) markers will be applied in the context of an existing traditional breeding project using backcrossing to develop breeding materials homozygous for the genes Ga1-s (a gene that makes the lines non-recipient to foreign pollen), and Tcb1 and its positive modifier genes (another gene that makes the lines non-recipient to foreign pollen). We will determine the effect of combining different genetic mechanisms for producing corn with high levels of the essential amino acid methionine. Methionine is very important for organic poultry production in light of impending bans on the use of synthetic methionine for organic poultry farmers. A breeding project is conducted to provide farmers practicing organic and other low-input agricultural farming systems with high yielding corn, incorporating the traits described above among others, to meet their specialty markets.
3. Progress Report
This is the initial report for this project. We have an established organic breeding nursery as well as a conventionally-managed nursery on which we are conducting selection, in addition to a nursery on a conventionally managed farm. Cool and wet conditions in the spring caused late plantings of nursery, yield tests, and isolated plantings. Heavy rainfall leading to 500-year floods eliminated a minimum of one third of our organic nursery planting and damaged much in our conventional nursery. As of July, three yield test sites on organic farms were abandoned due to poor weather and other damage. Isolated fields were planted in mid-June, for seed to distribute to farmers in 2009 and for 2009 yield testing. We have focused on bringing in high methionine level genotypes into the organic breeding program to increase the methionine level of our high-yielding genotypes for use as organic poultry feed. We have also begun heavy inoculation with plant pathogens and infestation with European corn borer larvae to select progeny with disease and insect resistance. This research relates to the National Program 301 Action Plan, Component 3, Genetic Improvement of Crops because it will develop improved germplasm of corn for sustainable farmers from exotic by adapted crosses that will broaden the germplasm base of the crop.
5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
We held a farm-based seed association group meeting for farmers who practice organic or low-input production and representatives of small seed companies in March, 2008. Farmers are encouraged to take an active role in helping our project decide objectives, priorities, and germplasm to advance. We have had several meetings with farmers, cooperators, and small seed companies to discuss strategies for delivering seed from our project to farmers who want to produce grain using our germplasm. We produced acre-sized increases of four synthetic varieties in 2007 and distributed seed to farmers to try on-farm in quantities to plant about one acre.