Corn cobs

New research out of Purdue University and published in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found what may be a money-saving discovery for the hybrid corn seed industry.

The research was conducted in collaboration with George Chuck from the Plant Gene Expression Center at the University of California Berkeley, Shozo Fujioka of RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Japan, Sunghwa Choe of Seoul National University in South Korea, and Devi Prasad Potluri of Chicago State University and funded by The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Burkhard Schulz is an assistant professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue. Along with the team of researchers, Schulz examined the naturally occurring brassinosteroid hormones found in corn (and other plants), which mainly affects the stalk and cob’s height and size, so they thought. But, the discovery upon removal of the hormone led to another finding: when the plant steroid was removed, the corn could not create male organs, and instead had female kernels in place of tassels. The discovery could benefit hybrid corn farmers who traditionally must remove tassels from each plant to prevent self-pollination—a painstakingly labor intensive practice and often dangerous.

According to an article in ScienceDaily.com, Schulz said, “We don’t know if this is a special case for corn or if this is generally the same in other plants.” But, he said. “If it is the same in other plants, it should be useful for creating plants or trees in which you want only males or females.”

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Image: Caitlinator