Grower works to breed a better organic sweet corn

06/05/2014 10:27:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

A southern Oregon organic sweet corn producer has received a grant to help with developing sweeter sweet corn varieties for organic production.

Jonathan Spero of Lupine Knoll Farm received $9,490 from the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Organic Farming Research Foundation to aid in breeding open-pollinated sugary enhanced sweet corn varieties, according to a news release.

Most sweet corn varieties on the market are hybrids, developed by taking two dissimilar varieties and crossing them. Along the way, breeders may use chemicals or other treatments to induce male sterility or other characteristics. The resulting hybrid is one that has attributes of both parents.

Open pollination allows for natural crossing and typically doesn't involve the use of synthetic compounds.

sweet cornIf growers save hybrid seed, the following generation tends to revert back to one of the parents, which may not have all of the desirable agronomic traits.

With open-pollinated varieties, the offspring tend to more resemble the parent line with fewer undesirable off types.

Several plant breeders have provided guidance for Spero's work, including Carol Deppe, a plant breeder/geneticist with the University of Oregon; James Myers, a breeder at Oregon State University; and John Juvik, a University of Illinois plant genetics professor.

The current hybrids on the market were developed with conventional production practices in mind. They include the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

Spero hopes to develop two varieties—Top Hat and Tuxana—that will work better under organic production conditions and are sweeter than most sugar-enhanced organic varieties currently on the market.



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