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Grant supports advanced corn breeding for the organic industry


Paul Scott (left) and his Iowa State colleague Thomas Lübberstedt inspect a corn nursery near Ames, Iowa during harvest. The scientists are working to develop improved seed corn tailored to the needs of the organic industry.  (Photo by Kathleen Delate, Iowa State University)

A new federal grant of nearly two-million dollars will help researchers develop improved corn hybrids for the rapidly growing organic industry.

Paul Scott, a USDA research geneticist and affiliate professor of agronomy at Iowa State, says one of the goals is to develop hybrids that carry traits desired by organic farmers.  For example, higher levels of the essential nutrient methioinine, which is important to the organic poultry industry.

“Chickens and turkeys need a lot of methioinine in their diet—and there’s not really a great source of methioinine that’s available to organic poultry producers,” Scott says.

Scott says another goal is to create a mechanism for organically grown corn to resist pollination by transgenic pollen floating in from conventional corn fields, which results in huge losses for organic farmers.

He says the grant will also allow researchers to incorporate new breeding methods into their program, which will shorten the time it takes to develop new hybrids specifically for organic production.

“We’re going to be able to apply some of the tools that conventional corn breeders use, and we’re going to apply those in breeding organic corn.”

The project involves researchers from Iowa State, the University of Illinois and the University of Puerto Rico.

Link to Iowa State news release

AUDIO: Paul Scott

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