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Title: The Importance of the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project (GEM) for US Seed Companies

item Blanco, Michael

Submitted to: Illinois Corn Breeders School Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2008
Publication Date: 3/3/2008
Citation: Trevisan, W., Blanco, M.H. 2008. The Importance of the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project (GEM) for US Seed Companies. In: 44th Annual Illinois Corn Breeders School Proceedings, March 3-4, 2008, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. p 9-15.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Today's competitive working environment and data-driven decision making has contributed to remarkable corn yield gains while simultaneously reducing genetic variability. Three important questions are how good is the US germplasm base, can we move up the yield plateau faster than historical trends, and do we have enough genetic variability in the two races of corn that have been utilized today for US corn breeding to sustain economic yield and trait enhancement. Presently, 65% of Monsanto new maize hybrid releases in the 110-120 RM range have at least one inbred parent with exotic germplasm introgression. This indicates that breeding with exotic germplasm has promising potential to reach commercial markets. The USDA-ARS Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project (GEM) is a collaborative effort of private and public sector researchers to broaden and enhance the maize germplasm base. Stakeholders are from small, medium, and large companies and have different objectives, breeding goals, and testing requirements. In large companies, GEM serves as a parallel effort to bring in new genetic diversity and provides a "repository" of adapted germplasm for traits. Small companies benefit from ready access to elite sources of exotic adapted germplasm for broadening their germplasm base and providing new traits with modest investment. Recent evaluation of GEM lines x Monsanto testers indicate that new GEM releases have become more competitive for plant quality and yield level. Since 2002, the GEM Project in Ames, IA, and Raleigh, NC, with support of University cooperators and private companies, released 187 lines (S3-S5 level) based on two-year data for yield, value-added traits (VAT), abiotic stress tolerance, and disease/insect resistance. GEM has access to new breeding methodology such as use of dihaploids, association analysis, and an excellent quality trait lab. Guidance is provided by a Technical Steering Group (TSG) with representatives from the public sector and small, medium, and large companies. We are confident that GEM will evolve with the new challenges of the modern seed industry and continue to provide useful genetic variability.