Saturday, August 20, 2011

Path Break - Indian Corn By The Dozen

Though this blog is subtitled "A path to new roses.....", now and then I intend to take a side path.  This side path highlights the Indian Corn that I just picked today.  Husking each of the cobs was surprisingly enjoyable.  I have to admit that it was almost as much fun as viewing brand new rose seedlings for the very first time.  Much like waiting for each tiny rose bud to unfurl, opening each husk produced a feeling of anticipation.  Each multi-colored cob was unique, always different from all of the others.  This harvest time reminded me that cooler weather is just around the corner, and I am looking forward to it!

Now I you think that multi-colored sweet corn could find a market?? Please don't tell my wife that I'm thinking about it!


  1. There is one multicolored sweet corn out there:
    Breeding sweet corn is super easy -- it is a single recessive gene, and individual seeds carrying both copies of the gene are wrinkled when mature, so you can easily pick them out of the ear. There are TONS of cool possibilities there. (Don't tell your wife I'm encouraging you here...)

  2. Ah Jim, you would be bored... way too easy: no odd ball ploidy issues, don't have to worry about it being a seed or pollen parent, very little disease issues, great germination rates, tons of seed per pollination, no emasculation required, yada yada yada....

    If you use the sh1 gene (supersweet style sweet corn) you will need to get a cross-over between it and an anthocyanin gene called a1. The supersweets all have a non-functional a1. If you use the su1 gene, then it is really straightforward. Kernels are pretty messed up when they are mature as they mature.

    Go to and poke around. They have photos there. Oh and you can request seed free of charge from the maize stock centre.


  3. Hey Joseph, thanks for the encouragement! It does sound like it could be a fun side path to work on. The Inca Rainbow Corn looks great!

    Hi Liz, wow, nothing easy about that! I seem to remember that you have worked on breeding other things - was corn one of them? What kind of work did/do you do?

  4. Yup, I'm a corn breeder/quantitative geneticist. Most of my work focuses on understanding where our opportunities for higher yields may lay. But I have also done a fair amount of work with the anthocyanin pathway, and I am currently doing some work with the carotenoid and starch pathways in the kernel.

    Are any of your ears what they call calico? They would have striped kernels and possibly patches of different intensities of striping on the ear. That is caused by a small transposable element called a mite in the p1 gene. It is expressed in the pericarp, which is maternal tissue.

    Liz the enabler....

  5. Hi Liz, Very interesting stuff!

    Yes, some of the ears do have sort of "star burst" striping on the kernels. So is the transposable element a virus fragment? If maternal, does that mean that kernels having the calico look, will only half the time produce plants that can produce calico kernels?

  6. Well it one time it was most likely part of a virus. The striping is caused by the mite hoping out of the p1 gene and restoring function to it which results in a reddish pigment building up in those sectors of the pericarp. The calico kernels are dominant to a non-functional p1 gene, but if there is a fully functional P1 gene floating around in the pollen (I assume that these were open pollinated ears), you would not see the calico in those offspring. If you have a calico family and you self it then the progeny will either be 50:50 calico and colorless pericarp, or all calico.

    Here is something else to look at, cob color. The red color is also caused by the P1 gene, some alleles are functional in the cob and the pericarp, others just in the cob, and still others just in the pericarp. And of course there are alleles that are not functional in either cobs or pericarps....