OREI Cooperators Converge in Puerto Rico for Winter Nursery Activities

Cooperators from six institutions converged at the University of Puerto Rico Agricultural Research Station in LaJas. Dubbed a smoothie-powered pollination festival by cooperator Paul Scott (USDA-ARS, Ames Iowa), cooperators advanced their breeding stocks, exchanged information, planned new breeding approaches and developed camaraderie. Highlights of the trip included a discussion of biological control agents with representatives of Koppert Biological Systems a visit by Charlie Brown of Brownseed Genetics, who was impressed by the weed control in the nursery. “We timed the cultivation just right this year” said Bryan Brunner (University of Puerto Rico). Insect damage was heavy with corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), old world bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and fall army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) all contributing. Cooperators agreed that this provided a great opportunity to select for varieties with native insect resistance. “While fall army worms are currently not a big problem in the U.S. corn belt, some resistance mechanisms may translate to improved insect protection against other pests” said Kevin Montgomery (Montgomery Consulting, Moroa, IL).

A new approach was implemented this year to encourage interinstitutional cooperation. Each cooperator designated a section of their nursery for interinstitutional crosses and presented the strengths and weaknesses of the varieties in that section to the other cooperators. Armed with this information, cooperators made new breeding crosses between complementary varieties from each institution present. “This approach gives us access to five times as much germplasm as we would normally have” said Keith Payne (Cornell University). Walter Goldstein (Mandaamin Institute, WI) was pleased with the performance of his nitrogen efficient corn. Lois Grant (New Mexico State University) was impressed with the performance of new germplasm from North Carolina State University. “Heat and drought stress are big problems in New Mexico and this material does pretty well.”

Click on the picture to view more photos of insects in the winter nursery!