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O Corn (maize) is considered the only important

cereal crop that evolved in the Americas

Hybrid Seed Production in Corn O Probably originated in Mexico - archaeological
(Zea mays L.) evidence of existence 7,000 years ago has
been found in Mexico’s valley of Tehuacan
O It evolved from teosinte (Zea mexicana)
O Corn seed production became a major ag
Mark A. Bennett industry when realized that hybrid lines could
Ohio State University significantly outyield open pollinated lines

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O As early as 5,000 B.C., hybrid production of OIn 1933, < 1% of corn planted in the U.S.
corn was indirectly encouraged by Indian tribes represented hybrids. During this period the
interested in the semi-controlled mixing of development of inbreds, and crossing with
endosperm colors during religious ceremonies other inbreds to produce double-cross hybrids
O These attempts not focused on high yields and resulted increased grain yields by 10-40%
it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that breeders over traditional OP varieties.
developed a method of self-fertilization to
select homozygous inbreds O # of dbl-cross combinations and their

O Many deleterious recessive genes were superior performance caused rapid adoption
expressed - often resulted in greatly reduced of corn hybrids by farmers.
yields while simultaneously encouraging the
expression of specific traits
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O By 1945, approx. 90% of the

corn in the U.S. represented
O Today, farmers plant an array
of single-cross and modified
single-cross hybrids.
O The success of hybrid corn
seed production also spawned
a new and vital seed industry
O The hybrid corn seed industry
in the U.S. currently produces
a product valued at over $3.5
billion annually

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Agricultural Importance Vegetative Development
O Worldwide, corn ranks behind only wheat in O Germination of corn seeds is similar
to that of many other grasses.
total production. O Germination begins when the seed
O ~ 80% of the corn produced goes to livestock reaches a moisture content of about
and poultry feed, while ~ 20% is used in food O Primary radicle is followed by
& industrial applications ( these values are seminal roots as the first organs to
changing w/ demand for ethanol, etc) emerge from the seed
O About 12 h later, the coleoptile,
O In many countries (Africa, Latin America) it is which covers the leaves, ruptures
an important crop for food as well as for the seed coat and is pushed ot the
surface by the elongating mesocotyl.
livestock feed.

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O A normal corn plant O After tassel initiation, the

develops between 20 and subsequent vegetative
23 leaves & all are initiated growth of the corn plant is
in a growing pt. that remains rapid and primarily a
below ground until the consequence of cell
primordial tassel is formed elongation.
O These events occur during O It is during this period that a
the first 4 wks of plant heavy demand for moisture
development and nutrients occurs.
O The permanent root system O Temperature and
forms in successive whorls photoperiod also interact in
from internodes between the determining the final height
first node that develops of the plant, which affects
above the mesocotyl. yield.

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Reproductive Development O Development of the reproductive structures

O Corn is different from other begins with tassel initiation below ground.
cereal crops because it does
not possess a typical grass O Tassel development continues as the
flower. vegetative internodes start their rapid
O Instead, it produces
unisexual flowers on the elongation and is completed by the time it
same plant and is thus, emerges from the leaf whorl.
O The male flowers are O After tassel emergence, pollen shed begins
represented by the tassel and is completed after 7 to 10 days.
and the female flowers by
the ear. O Pollen dispersal occurs by wind and gravity
O Pollen comes from the tassel dissemination.
and the silks are the style of
the female flower.

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O Ear initials are found on mature plants in O Because the tip ear silks appear after
axillary buds of lower leaves up to the last basal ear silk emergence, they may not be
axillary bud that produces the ear. fertilized if pollen shed has ceased,
O Rapid growth of the ear shoots occurs resulting in a barren tip ear.
simultaneously with tassel emergence O Extreme heat or drought also have a much
and the most rapid growth is in the greater effect on the timing of silk
highest position. emergence than pollen shed or pollen
O Silk elongation is initiated first from ovules viability, and is linked with poor yields
at the base of the ear and last from those under stress conditions.
at the tip of the ear.

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O After fertilization, seed

development begins.
clipping O The endosperm first
increases in size and is
filled with sugars so
that the developing
seeds resemble watery
O Later the embryo
matures using the
established endosperm
as an energy source.

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O As the embryo completes its development, the

endosperm starts to dry down and sugars rapidly
disappear and are replaced by starch.
O Dry-down is first at the top or crown of the seed and
progresses toward the base
O Seeds at the tip of the cob complete dry-down
before those at the base.
O Dry-down is marked by the movement of a kernel
milk line.
O The development of a black layer at the base of the
seed signifies the time of physiological maturity,
which is considered an indication of seed maturity
by grower.
O About 800 ovules are produced on a typical ear. Seed development (L to R: less to more developed). The darker
yellow tissue inside the kernel is the embryo.
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O The seed is botanically classified as a
caryopsis because it is a dry (at
maturity), indehiscent, single-seeded fruit
that includes the tightly fused ovary wall.
O Corn seeds differ dramatically in size and
O Position on the ear is primarily
Black layer: responsible for these differences
O Large round seeds tend to be at the base
of the ear and small round seeds at the
(Pictures from: Mississippi State University extension service,
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O ~ 75% of corn seeds are between the LR and SR

seeds and are flattened due to their tightly packed
positions ; there is a range in size and shape from
large flat (LF) to small flat (SF) seeds.
O Historically, differences in seed size were
recognized by the seed corn industry, which
marketed according to uniform sizes so that they
would fit specific plates found in corn planters.
O Since the early 1970’s the introduction of
“plateless” air planters has resulted in equipment
that could satisfactorily plant seed regardless of
seed size or shape.
O Today, > 85% of seed corn is planted in some
areas is with “plateless” planters; there is less need
for seed sizing, but it is still a common practice.

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O In addition to size and shape differences, the

corn endosperm genotype changes the seed
appearance and chemistry. O Dent corn seeds have a vitreous, flinty
O 5 primary kernel types: dent, flint, floury, sweet endosperm at the sides of the kernel and a
corn and popcorn. soft, floury endosperm in the center.
O Dent is the most widely grown corn in the U.S., O Its most conspicuous feature is the indentation
northern Mexico, and southern Canada. of the kernel at the crown caused by the
O Believed to have evolved from a cross between collapse of the soft, floury endosperm at the
flint and a southern white dent (‘Gourdseed”) crown of the kernel during dry-down.
during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Flint corn primarily grown in
Europe, Asian and Central O Sweet corn is grown for direct human
and South America. Kernels consumption, and differs from dent corn
are smooth and rounded
with no denting and posses by only 1 recessive gene that prevents
a thick, hard, vitreous
endosperm surrounding a the conversion of sucrose to starch in the
small granular center. kernels.
O Floury corn is primarily
grown in South America and O Popcorn is a small flint type that
southern Africa.
O One of the oldest types and
possesses a hard, vitreous endosperm
possesses a soft endosperm that explodes when between 13 and 15%
with no denting.
O This corn is often ground to
moisture content after heating.
produce flour for cooking.

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Seed O Pericarp protects seed from invasion by

pathogens, minimizes mechanical injury
and delays water uptake so that
O Corn seeds differ in color from white to
yellow, orange, red, purple and black. imbibitional injury is reduced.
O Different colors attributed to genetic O Endosperm represents ~ 75% of field
differences in pericarp, aleurone layer, corn seed dry weight and is the main
embryo (germ) or endosperm tissues. energy storage area possessing high
O Mature corn seed has three main parts: quantities of starch.
seed coat or pericarp, endosperm and
embryo which is often called the germ.

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O The embryo is composed of two main parts:

O Corn seeds also have a black
layer at the base of the seed.
O Scutellum makes up 10-12% of seed dry wt
and believed to be the singular cotyledon. Oil The layer forms at physiological
concentration is high (35-40%). maturity at about 30-38%
O Embryonic axis, consisting of the plumule that moisture content and is an
already contains the first 5 seedling leaves and indication of maximum seed dry
the radicle that produces the first seedling

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Composition as Percentages of Whole and
Fractionated Corn Kernels.
Seed Production
O Corn is a warm-season crop.
Fraction Kernel Starch Sugar Protein Oil
O Breeders have developed lines that can grow in almost any
climate, but corn typically grows best when average temps of
21-32C (70-90F) and 15-20 cm (6-8 in) rainfall are
Kernel 100.0 71.5 2.0 10.3 4.8
encountered for 3-4 consecutive months.
Endosperm1 81.9 86.4 0.6 9.4 0.8
O These conditions abound in the US corn belt. Iowa,
Germ 11.9 8.2 10.8 18.8 34.5
Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois are the center of this region.
Bran 5.3 7.3 0.3 3.7 1.0
O Major corn seed companies are located in these states.
O Agronomic practices for the production of seed corn are the
same as those for grain except that some additional
1. Composed of starchy and aleurone fractions.
requirements exist.

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Other factors to help in isolating

seed corn fields
O Corn seed is almost always a hybrid between O Production in large fields and use of border rows
two inbred parents; first decision in seed corn that have a time of nicking (simultaneous pollen
production is isolation of the seed field. release and silk emergence) different from other
O Corn is cross pollinated by wind; studies have corn lines reduces the need for as much isolation
shown that the greatest “contamination” by O Location of fields with natural barriers such as hills
pollen occurs 50-75 m (164-246 ft) from the or trees or that are in a different prevailing wind
pollinating parent. direction from contaminating fields.
O Seed fields are isolated by at least 200 m
(656 ft) from other corn.

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O One of the greatest concerns in hybrid O Quality assurance (QA) specialists from
seed corn production is genetic purity. seed companies constantly monitor
production fields to ensure that only
O Because detasseling operations are
hybrid seed is produced and marketed.
seldom successful in eliminating all
O Field inspections provide one measure of
tassels, some level of selfing occurs.
this success.
O Contaminating pollen from other seed
fields creates problems by producing O Many companies have adopted lab

outcrosses electrophoresis programs that evaluate

seed protein banding patterns on starch
gels for genetic purity determinations.

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O To preserve crop identity, a grower should use the
Identity Preserved (I.P.) Production same generally accepted practices to manage pollen
flow that are used in any of the currently grown I.P.
O Some growers may choose to preserve the
corn crops.
identity of their non-genetically enhanced corn to
O These include adequate isolation distances, buffers
minimize the potential for movement of pollen
between hybrids, border rows, planned differences in
from fields containing any genetically improved maturity between adjacent fields and natural barriers.
traits or any such traits not yet approved for O Examples: production of seed corn, white, waxy, high
export markets (such as the European Union) oil, high amylose, high lysine and other corn crops that
O Accepted practice with I.P. production is that meet specialty needs, including organic and non-
each grower has responsibility to provide any genetically enhanced specifications.
necessary crop isolation that might be required.

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O Due to unavoidable pollen movement that occurs when

producing an I.P. crop, markets have established Tillage
standards or tolerances
O Tolerances are usually small percentages that can be O Minimum tillage used on soils that are
met with reasonable management and production
poorly drained or where corn is grown
on slopes.
O Growers certifying I.P. accept responsibility for the
O Operations leave the previous crop
isolation and production practices, identity preservation
stubble which reduces soil erosion.
and ultimately the purity of their crop.
O Disadvantages: cooler, wetter soils at
O Since some buyers of I.P. production have tolerances,
contact your grain purchaser relative to their specific planting and greater dependence on
requirements. pesticides.

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O Conventional tillage still practiced in Planting

some locations
O Seedbed prep in the fall with a O Begin when soil temp is 10C (50F) at a 5 cm (2 in)
moldboard plow
O Most plant seed from 2-7 cm deep depending on
O Heavy stubble from the previous crop is moisture status of soil; plant deeper for drier soils
turned over and degraded while O Seeding rates vary, dependent on row widths and
controlling late-growing perennial distances between plants
weeds; permits turned soil to break O Optimum populations of modern hybrids approach
down so that secondary tillage in the 54,000 to 64,000 plants/ha (22,000 to 26,000
plants/A) with 75 cm (29.5 in) row width
spring is less extensive
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O Planting pattern varies, but most common is 1
row of male parent to 4 rows female parent.
O Selection of parents must be planned so that the
O Other ways to make minor (3-6 d)
male sheds pollen at the time of silk emergence adjustments in pollen shed: use
from the female (nicking). variable fertilizer rates, growth
O A method to ensure successful nicking with regulators to stimulate or retard
differing maturities is the use of split planting development, retarding growth via
dates. clipping or flaming of one parent,
O Female planted on a different date than male so planting at differing soil depths, seed
that synchronous flowering occurs. coatings.

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Nutrient Management O Fertilizers that supply more than 100 kg N, 25

kg P, and 50 kg K/ha are not uncommon to
O Because corn inbreds have poorer rooting
obtain the highest yields.
ability than hybrids, soil fertility deficiencies O Most important of these is N; can be applied in
may have a great impact on inbred various forms to minimize nitrification and
development denitrification.
O Inbred lines grow best on well-drained, loamy O Phosphorus is often applied as a
soils with pH from 5.5-8.0.
superphosphate or ammonium phosphate
O Because of rapid vegetative growth, heavy
emphasis is placed on appropriate soil fertility O Potassium usually supplied as potassium

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Weed & Pest Control O Corn is also susceptible to a

host of diseases and insects.
O Mechanical and chemical control of weeds is used in O Seed-borne fungi include
corn production because of the less competitive species from the genera
ability of inbreds compared to hybrids. Gibberella, Pythium,
O Early control of annual and perennial weeds is often Fusarium, Drechslera,
Diplodia and
accomplished using a rotary hoe and rotary cultivator Helminthosporium.
which disrupts the soil and weed seedlings before O Root worm, earworms,
corn seedlings are established. grasshoppers, corn borers,
O Chemical control used both preplant and and aphids attack vegetative
postemergence for later control of broadleaf weeds. and reproductive structures of
O Major weeds of corn: lambsquarters, pigweed, corn plant and must be
controlled by appropriate
Canada thistle, morninglory, panicum, foxtail and insecticides.
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O Hybrid seed production requires the female parent
have its tassels removed or made infertile before its
silk emergence to avoid self-fertilization.
O 3 ways to do this:
(1) Manually or mechanically remove tassel - must be
done in 7-10 d between when tassel is ready to
emerge and pollination. Fields inspected to ensure
that no tassels were missed. Yield reductions of up to
10% due to detasseling. Yield reductions even
greater with mechanical removal.

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O 2) Use of parents that possess cytoplasmic

male sterility (CMS): incorporation of specific
recessive genes into inbred parents that make
pollen either sterile or delay pollen shed until
well after silks of female parent have been
fertilized by desired pollen. Use of CMS
narrows the genetic base and makes crop
more susceptible to disease.
O 3) Use of chemicals to control pollen formation
or viability

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O Male gametocides to control pollen Harvesting

viability or production continue to be O Corn harvested by a picker, a
explored, along with other techniques picker-sheller, or a corn combine
for flowering control O Picker removes ear from stalk,
removes husks, and places ear
O Such methods eliminate the costly need with attached kernels in a wagon
for physical removal of the tassel O A picker-sheller provides the
same operation and adds the
O No chemical or alternative means have step of shelling or removing the
yet been found as a practical alternative seeds from the ear.
to mechanical detasseling, however, O A corn combine places all
operations in one piece of
studies are continuing. equipment.

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Most harvesting of corn for grain is with a
combine; for seed use, it is best to retain the
Because seed corn is
kernels on the cob and allow seed to dry further O
usually harvested on the
so that mechanical damage is minimized. ear and at high moisture
content, it is necessary to
O Seed should not be harvested at moisture reduce seed moisture
contents above 35-38% so it can be safely dried. content for safe storage.
O Usually done by squirrel-
O Major risk to seed quality is the possibility of cage or fan systems to
freezes, which reduce germination. draw fresh air through a
burner and force the
O Level of freeze damage is dependent on temp, heated air through bins
filled with seed on the ear.
developmental stage (moisture content),
genotype, and husk protection.

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O Heated air can be used but should not exceed

46C (115F) Storage
O High-moisture seeds more prone to heat injury
than low-moisture seeds O Seeds at 15% moisture
can be stored for one
O If seeds at high-moisture content, drying should season, at 10-12% for 3
begin at a low temp such as 35C (95F) until seasons, and 8-10% for
moisture content is 20%, then increase temp to long-term storage at or
below 10C/50F.
46C/115F. O Low-moisture levels are
O Seeds typically dried to 12-13% moisture difficult to handle without
content; the seeds are easily shelled without incurring additional seed
damage and allowed to dry further in open
storage or bins.
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O Low-moisture seeds also prone to Conditioning

imbibitional damage following
planting. O Begins with shelling the seed.
O Seed corn companies typically O Shellers essentially rub the seed from
the cob.
store 30-40% more seed than
O Once shelled, it is conveyed by belts to
estimated sales to ensure
the conditioning equipment
availability of adequate supplies as
well as protection against possible
stand failures
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O Most seed corn is
3 Operations in Conditioning Seed now marketed
according to size in
1. Scalping operation – using scalpers or air-screen bagged units of
cleaners to remove cob and kernels, husks, silks and
22.7 kg (50 lb) each
or providing bags
other debris. with 80,000 seeds
2. Sizing operation – separates seeds into uniform lots each which vary in
of size and shapes (width, thickness, length); width weight from 13.6 to
graders and aspirators used. 231.7 kg (30 to 70
3. Treating seed - with a fungicide-insecticide slurry lb) because of the
prior to bagging.
differences in seed

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Quality Control (Role of Vigor Testing) Types of Hybrids-Advantages &

O Seed corn routinely monitored for germination and
vigor to ensure seeds will germinate and produce Inbred Lines:
seedlings under typical production environments. O True breeding (homozygous) parents for hybrid corn
O Most popular vigor test is the cold test, which mimics O Developed by corn breeders using artificial self-
early spring planting conditions by stressing seeds pollinating (inbreeding) accompanied by vigorous
under cold, wet conditions and determining their selection for desired characteristics for 5 or more
emergence capability. generations.
O This test is so important that most seed corn contracts O Seed producer can duplicate the exact characteristics
in the U.S. corn belt provide stipulations that the seed of a particular hybrid each time a seed crop is
must meet a minimum 92/82 standard: 92% produced.
germination and 82% cold test.

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O Seed yields on inbred plants are low Double-Cross Hybrids:

[672-2,688 kg/ha (10-40 bu/A)] since
inbreeding results in a marked decrease O First successful commercial hybrid seed corn
in vigor and productivity. O Produced by crossing two different single
O Hybrid vigor (heterosis) occurs when two crosses, giving the pedigree [(AxB)x(CxD)]
highly selected unrelated inbreds O This permitted four different unrelated inbred
possessing desirable characteristics are parents with desirable characteristics to be
crossed. brought together into one hybrid

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O Double-crosses were necessary because O Double-cross plants are more variable than
the first inbred lines had poor vigor and single or 3-way crosses.
performed poorly as female parents. O They are not all alike genetically and allow
O Thus, single cross hybrids had to be breeders to bring more different desirable
formed because they had enough vigor to characteristics together into one hybrid than
enable them to be good female parents. is possible in a single cross.
O This allowed hybrid seed production to be O The plants may be “buffered” more against
a practical, economical system that unfavorable situations, which frequently
produced adequate seed that could occur at one or more times during the
perform well for farmers. growing season.

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O Double-cross plants also O However, fields of double-cross hybrids do not

have a longer pollination
period, which tends to possess the “eye appeal” of single-cross
provide more complete hybrids because the plants and ears tend to
filling of the ear with be more variable
seed, often resulting in
higher yields. O May be more difficult to obtain a high level of
O Lower seed costs are an disease and insect resistance in double-
obvious advantage crosses compared to single-crosses
where the yield of the O Double-cross hybrids may not take full
double-crosses are
equal or better than the advantage of highly favorable environments as
best single-crosses. a well adapted single-cross.

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Single-Cross Hybrids: O A field planted with single-cross seed is

impressive because plant height, ear
height, tasseling, silking, pollen shedding
O Most modern commercial hybrid seed and all other characteristics are extremely
O These are crosses between two inbred uniform.
lines. O Because of the availability of excellent

O Now practical because modern inbred inbred female parents, single-cross

lines have been developed with hybrids represent almost 90% of hybrid
corn seed market.
adequate plant vigor to make good
(productive) female parents.
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O Genetic uniformity of single-cross plants Three-Way Hybrids
offers a particular advantage for high-yield
environments, where they yield better than O Crosses can be made between a single-cross hybrid
the best double-crosses. (AxB), as the seed parent with an inbred line, C, as
O Only two inbred parents are involved, a the pollen parent to give the pedigree [(AxB)xC].
higher level of resistance to diseases, insects O Three-way hybrid seed is produced on single-cross
and unfavorable weather is evident plants so that yield and quality may be equal, or nearly
O If any component is adverse, it will affect all so, to double-cross seed.
of the single-cross plants, resulting in lower O The pollinator is an inbred parent, and this may add
performance. some cost to seed production
O Pollen shed occurs during a shorter period O More variable than single-crosses and less variable
since all the plants are genetically alike, with than double-crosses.
the potential for lower yields, especially O Advantages and disadvantages are likely to be
under stress conditions. between those double and single crosses.

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O Three-way crosses generally used for

commercial popcorn production since they
Sweet corn seed production
produce more uniform quality (e.g., popping
# kernels/lb# kernels/kg
expansion, pericarp thickness) than double-
normal sugary (su) 2,500 5,500
sugar enhanced (se) 3,500 7,700
O They are also commonly used for commercial
supersweet (sh2) 3,800 8,400
sweet corn production since complete
triple sweets (su se sh2) 6,500 14,300
uniformity is desired for timely harvest and for
field corn (Su) 1,800 3,960
uniform canning and table quality.
(Marshall & Tracy, 2003)

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Harvesting high-sugar sweet corn Conditioning high-sugar sweet corn

O Commonly harvested at 50-55% SMC, vs. O Slower moisture loss than su1 seed
~30% for su1 seed O Drying ears takes longer (more expensive)
O Modified pickers used, and ears with husks are
O Drying temps usually less than 98oF (37oC)
delivered to conditioning plant
O Modified husking beds (24o angle vs. 18o, plus O Drying rate should be as rapid as possible, use
alternating rubber and steel rollers) to minimize larger volumes of air thru dryers
pericarp damage
(Marshall & Tracy, 2003) (Marshall & Tracy, 2003)

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Kernel properties associated with poor
Conditioning (continued)
sweet corn emergence and seedling vigor
O Shelling, milling, sizing, sorting, treating and
packaging processes again modified for high- O Seed maturity at harvest
sugar sweet corn seed. O Pericarp injury and other damage during
O Electronic sorters remove discolored kernels harvest, drying
O Milling, sizing equipment modified to handle O Membrane damage due to rapid imbibition
seed ½ the weight and size of su1 O Solute leakage during germination
(Marshall & Tracy, 2003)

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O Insufficient seedling energy reserves Summary – hybrids, blends, etc.

due to reduced kernel starch content
O Hybrid: 1st generation cross between one or
O Dysfunctional scutellum or axis (lower
more inbred lines as described below. Hybrids
CHO utilization)
do not qualify as varieties, since they are not
O Reduced embryo to endosperm ratios
genetically stable, i.e., they lose hybrid vigor if
O Susceptibility of kernels to pathogen replanted, and because of segregation and
infection uncontrolled crossing, establish new genetic
(Douglass et al., 1993)
O Inbred line: homozygous true breeding strain of
corn maintained by self-or sib-pollination
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O Single-cross hybrid: the 1st generation of O Synthetic: advanced generation of a

a cross between 2 inbred lines hybrid maintained in isolation with open
O Three-way hybrid: the 1st generation of a pollination.
cross between two single-cross hybrids. O Blend: a mechanical mixture of 2 or more
O Multiple-cross hybrid: the 1st generation varieties, hybrids, strains, etc.
of a cross involving more than four inbred O Open pollinated variety: advanced
lines, i.e., a cross of two double crosses, generation of an intercrossing population
a single-cross hybrid crossed with a of multiple genotypes maintained in
double-cross hybrid, etc. isolation

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O McDonald and Copeland: Seed Production
O ISU Report No. 48