Biotech Updates

Large Scale Trials Reveal Secrets to Adaptation of Modern Corn Hybrids

December 20, 2017

Has the last century of hybridization to increase yields changed the corn plant's ability to adjust to new or stressful situations? University of Wisconsin Professor of Agronomy Natalia de Leon, along with her student Joe Gage and colleagues, hoped to answer this question.

Their study results suggest that by intensively breeding for yield, corn breeders have limited the pool of possibilities for future North American corn hybrids, thus creating a smaller universe of available hybrids adaptable in responding to stresses like drought or pests.

The research team collected data from a massive Genomes to Fields (G2F) field trial including more than 850 unique corn hybrids at 21 locations across North America. They measured traits like yield and plant height while recording weather conditions and found that regions of the corn genome that have undergone a high degree of selection have reduced capacity to respond to variable environments than genomic regions that weren't directly acted on by breeders. This indicates that breeders need to develop new hybrids that acclimate to new or changing locations in the same area.

For more details, read the Iowa Corn Growers Association News.