About the Breeding Non-Commodity Corn for Organic Production Systems Project

This is the website of a group of corn breeders dedicated to producing new corn varieties for U.S. Certified Organic Production systems. The long term goal of this work is to increase the profitability, sustainability and safety of organic food production systems emphasizing corn.

Project Background:

Corn is a desirable component of organic production systems because it produces a high yield of valuable grain. However, there is a critical need in organic agriculture for new corn varieties that are productive in organic production systems. This requires corn with resistance to insects and pathogens and the ability to suppress weeds. In addition, most of the seed available to organic producers is not optimized for a specific application. Varieties that are optimized for organic layer feed, for example, would have soft grain of intense yellow-orange color with high levels of nutrients including methionine. Varieties that are optimized for organic tortilla production would have white cobs and grain available in a variety of colors and suitable for grinding. Product-optimized varieties do not fit well into large scale commodity corn production systems because markets for these products tend to be small and localized. Because organic producers tend to serve small-localized markets, product-optimized varieties are an ideal fit for them.

Project Activities

Increasing the availability of seed for non-commodity corn varieties will be achieved through the following activities:

1. Breeding: Develop and release new non-commodity corn varieties and improved germplasm with traits desired by organic farmers and food producers.
2. Research: Develop new knowledge and technology that facilitates breeding corn by public and private breeders (including seed savers) for organic production systems.
3. Outreach: Show organic producers and seed companies how to use the results (information and germplasm) developed by the proposed research.

These activities are complementary and interconnected as shown at right. For example, new varieties from the breeding activity will be valuable in research aimed at future efforts to understand the inheritance of our target traits. These varieties will be made available to our customers through our outreach efforts. Our outreach activities will allow us to get feedback from customers on breeding targets. Research products such as new molecular markers and evaluation methods will facilitate our breeding activities.