Researchers Seek Shortcuts to Hybrid Development

I can still remember sitting in 7th grade Biology class, learning about dominant and recessive genes.  Honestly, I was fascinated by Punnett squares.  I thought it was fun to predict the outcome of a particular cross or breeding experiment.

A recent Dairy Herd Management Forage Resource Center article took me back to my school days, but I promise it won’t end with a test for you!  The research being highlighted in this article holds some incredibly exciting possibilities for our industry.

Researchers from Iowa State University, China Agricultural University and the Beijing Genomics Institute in China have re-sequenced and compared six elite inbred corn lines, including the parents of the most productive commercial hybrids in China. One goal of the research is to identify how heterosis, or hybrid vigor, works.  Heterosis is the phenomenon in which the offspring of two different lines of corn grow better than either of the two parents.

Knowing just which genes are important would provide a shortcut for breeders to produce hybrids with specific traits. For example, crossing an inbred line that is drought susceptible with a line that includes the gene for drought tolerance could lead to a better hybrid. Patrick Schnable, director of the Center for Plant Genomics and professor of Agronomy at ISU, cautions there is much work left to do, but the potential for improvement in corn hybrid performance is incredible.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.