Germplasm Enhancement of Maize

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Background of GEM
1993 Lobbying
GE Network
GEM Project
Development of BC
1994 Lobbying
TAC Meeting
3-Way BC
TAC Meeting (June)
Field Day
TAC Meeting (Sept)
Conference Report

GEM - 1994 Annual Report


Background of GEM (The Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project)

Germplasm enhancement of LAMP accessions within each country is Stage 5 of LAMP. Each PI develops a plan for his/her country. Two GE proposals were presented to the Maize Crop Advisory Committee (CAC) and the ASTA Corn and Sorghum Basic Research Committee (CSBRC) in December 1992. One was written by Randy Holley and Major Goodman, the other by Linda Pollak. The CAC expressed support, and the chair, Arnel Hallauer, was asked to write a letter expressing this support to Jim Parks. The CSBRC appointed a committee (Major Goodman, Randy Holley, Linda Pollak, Wilfredo Salhuana, and Douglas Tiffany) to combine the two proposals into one they could use to lobby for support.

On March 11, 1993 the combined proposal was sent to CSBRC members asking for comments, suggestions, and level of in-kind support their company would contribute to the project on an annual basis. Jim Parks and Dave Harper felt that a wider audience needed to be contacted so an additional 57 persons/companies were contacted. The CSBRC felt in-kind support was important for:

1) Showing Congress and USDA industry's support

2) Providing the necessary number of environments

3) Ensure that the enhanced material will have commercial relevance

4) Provide public programs with routine cooperation and guidance.

The level of in-kind support received was approximately $450,000 per year, from 30 companies.


1993 Lobbying

Dave Harper visited Washington DC in fall, 1993, at the offices of the following House members: Durban, Nussel, and Smith; and the following Senate offices: Grassley, Bumpers, and Harkin. He also visited the office of the acting administrator of ARS, Essex E. Finney, Jr.


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GE Network

To develop the framework of public/private cooperation, Doug Tiffany initiated correspondence with people known to have GE interests, and asking them to pass the information along to others. From this effort offers of support from several public breeders were received. A GE network meeting was held on December 9 at the 1993 annual meeting Corn & Sorghum Section of the ASTA. All those on the GE network list plus people from companies on the in-kind support list were invited. More than 50 people attended, mostly representing industry.


GE project organization and protocol

These matters were discussed at the first GE meeting Dec. 9, 1993. Project organization was based on LAMP's organization. A technical advisory committee to write the protocol and oversee the project was approved (Wilfredo Salhuana of Pioneer as chair, Linda Pollak of USDA-ARS as coordinator, Randy Holley of NK, Kevin Montgomery of Golden Harvest, David Harper of Holden's, and Blaine Johnson of University of Nebraska, plus Douglas Tiffany representing as the GE network coordinator, and Jim Parks representing ASTA), and as a whole corresponds to the LAMP Director's role. The coordinator corresponds to Ricardo Sevilla and Wilfredo Salhuana's LAMP roles. Jorge Rubio's role of information management will be handled by an employee of the coordinator funded by Congress's appropriation. The GE cooperators, public and private, will be responsible for the project's execution, like the PI's of LAMP. Like the LAMP PI's, the cooperators will meet annually to discuss results and modify procedures. 

Primary products were identified as being 75% Corn Belt: 25% exotic and 50% Corn Belt: 50% exotic S3's that have been selected in a modified pedigree breeding system for yield and/or value added traits. The project will have room, however, for a diversity of procedures and products that will be modified as necessary. Initial materials are of two types:

1. tropical and temperate LAMP accessions

2. tropical hybrids (Seven tropical hybrids were donated by DEKALB Genetics Corp.                      

Effective communications were identified as critical for the project to succeed. Cooperators will keep in touch through computer networks with other solutions such as fax for those without access to networks, and newsletters from the GE network. There will be an annual field day in addition to the annual meeting.


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Development of Breeding Crosses with Public Inbreds

As part of Stage 5 of LAMP, Linda Pollak crossed 46 accessions and tropical hybrids to either/both B73 or Mo17, in a winter nursery near Isabela, Puerto Rico. They were available to cooperators in 1994 for backcrossing to cooperator lines or observation. The following cooperators requested samples of the public line breeding crosses:

Wyffels Hybrids, Inc. 5 crosses
Beck's Superior Hybrids 4 crosses
Asgrow Seed Co. all crosses
Jung Farms, Inc. all temperate crosses
Bo-Jac Hybrid Corn Co. 6 crosses
Central Golden Harvest Research 18 crosses
University of Tennessee 6 crosses
Limagrain Genetics Corp. 10 crosses
Callahan Enterprises 12 crosses
DEKALB Genetics Corp. 18 crosses
Ainsworth Seed Co. 10 crosses


Lobbying, February 1994

Three industry representatives (Dave Harper from Holden's Foundation Seeds, William Kuhn from Pioneer Hi-Bred Int., and Jim Parks from Wyffels Hybrids) visited Washington DC during the second week of February 1994, to lobby for germplasm enhancement. They asked for an appropriation of $950,000 annually to support enhancement in the public sector. Visits were made to staffs of key Senators and Representatives. Responses were positive, with key points of the positive response:

1) in-kind support of the private sector is pledged which is critical

2) this is not the kind of work industry would or could do

3) fits into biodiversity effort

4) emphasis on value-added traits

The three industry representatives were invited to testify before the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on March 22, which they did.


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Meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), February 21, 1994

After appointment of the TAC committee in December 1993, several members began working on a draft protocol for GEM. During the first TAC meeting, held in association with the NCR-167 meetings in Bettendorf, Iowa, the committee reviewed and revised the draft protocol in detail. The committee discussed in detail the Corn Belt material to use to make breeding crosses with the exotic accessions. It was recognized that commercial inbreds would be best, and would result in faster progress and superior products. Industry members of TAC acknowledged that it would be difficult to gain their companies permission to use commercial lines, but were encouraged to investigate the possibility. If using commercial lines was not feasible, using company hybrids was discussed.

Dave Harper discussed the lobbying visit to Washington the second week of February. The committee discussed ways they could help in the lobbying effort. Linda Pollak agreed to try to obtain support from Iowa State University.


Development of 3-Way Breeding Crosses with Public Inbred Lines

All accessions crossed to B73 and Mo17 in the 1993-94 winter nursery were crossed again to the public inbred line in Ames, Iowa. These 3-way crosses are freely available, but GEM will use no resources to develop products from breeding crosses with public lines. The materials were also planted for cooperators to observe at the field day. 


Meeting of the TAC, June 1, 1994

The second meeting of the TAC was held in Kansas City, Missouri. The protocol was again discussed in detail. Most industry members had obtained company permission to use commercial lines to make breeding crosses. A draft agreement, signed by members of the TAC, was reviewed. The agreement plus the protocol would be sent to all potential public and private cooperators. In order to participate in GEM, companies would have to sign the agreement and agree to make breeding crosses with commercial lines. All breeding crosses and data would be exchanged among all signers of the agreement. Those not signing would have access only to released materials and data.


Dissemination of the Agreement Letter and the Protocol

The agreement letter, the protocol, and a cover letter explaining the requirements and implications of signing the agreement, were sent to all companies that were originally solicited for in-kind support in 1993, all U.S. public corn breeders, LAMP PI's, and CIMMYT. These materials were mailed soon after August 1, 1994, with a deadline of August 31 for returning the signed agreement. All companies represented on the TAC agreed to participate fully as cooperators.


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1994 Field Day

Doug Tiffany sent the first newsletter of the GE network to publicize GEM's first field day, held on September 22, 1994, 1:30 - 5:30 pm, at the Iowa State University Agronomy and Agricultural Engineering Research Farm near Ames. The field day was also publicized by the Des Moines Register.

Invited to the field day were: ARS and ISU administrators, local Iowa congressmen and senators, board members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, GEM cooperators, the GE network, ISU corn scientists, and administrators of commodity and farm groups. About 65 people attended, including Rodney Williamson of the Iowa Corn Growers, several board members, Bob Mustell of the National Corn Growers Association, Don Gingerich (special assistant to Congressman Jim Lightfoot), and a reporter from the Des Moines Register who followed up with an article. Most attendees were private cooperators; no public cooperators outside of ISU were able to attend.

A short program was held consisting of welcomes from Dwayne Buxton, Research Leader of the USDA-ARS Field Crops Research Unit, and Ron Cantrell, Head of the ISU Department of Agronomy. Cooperators were introduced, and short talks were given by some ISU cooperators who are using LAMP germplasm to study wet milling traits (Larry Johnson), starch functionality and fatty acid composition (Pam White), and insect resistance (Craig Abel).

Meeting of the TAC, September 22, 1994, Ames, Iowa

The third meeting of the TAC was held after the field day. Main topics discussed were how to help in the lobbying; seeking more publicity, and studies planned for value-added traits after funding is identified. Several details of the protocol were discussed.


Conference Report for House and Senate Ag. Appropriations Subcommittees

Charles Murphy notified Dave Harper, William Kuhn, and Jim Parks that their lobbying efforts were successful. Linda Pollak notified the other members of the TAC. The conference report published on September 20, 1994, stated: 

In addition, the conference agreement provides $500,000 to initiate a national program to enhance the corn germplasm base. Scientists are concerned that the current narrow genetic base for corn greatly increases vulnerability to unforeseen pest problems for the $16 billion corn crop. 


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Accession Assignments to Companies

Linda Pollak assigned a minimum of four accessions to each private cooperator, to cross to either/both a Stiff Stalk or non-Stiff Stalk commercial line in the winter nursery. The accessions were sent to cooperators by NCRPIS.



As of December 2, 1994, there are 21 private and 19 public cooperators in GEM (see attached list). These cooperators are involved in the breeding effort.

There are three ISU graduate students with research projects using GEM materials, two in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department working with wet milling and modifying factors that affect major starch mutants, and one in the Entomology Department working with corn rootworm resistance. Cooperation on European corn borer resistance will begin in 1995 with the ARS Corn Insects Unit located at ISU and NCRPIS (Richard Wilson). Cooperation on silage quality will begin with a postdoc who will be hired to work with the ARS forage quality project at ISU (Dwayne Buxton). With the funding for GEM from Congress, evaluations of GEM and LAMP materials for starch functionality, fatty acid composition, grain quality, and amino acid composition using DSC, microviscometry, GLC, NIR, embryo rescue, and microbial techniques are being developed at ISU.

United AgriSeeds are working on NIR calibrations to interpret composition analyses made on 1000 S1 lines of 73 temperate LAMP accessions. Hoegemeyer Hybrids evaluated the S1 lines for resistance to corn lethal necrosis, finding eight non-USA accessions that had 25% or more S1 lines with commercial levels of tolerance. Juan Gebauer of Winter Nursery Service in Chile donated 200 winter nursery rows per year to GEM.


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We are grateful to our Cooperators for their support!


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