NCGA reports on genetics and genomics research
"The group will take several complementary approaches to understand how the SAM works and its potential for manipulation to produce maize lines with desirable agronomic traits. First, they will take 3D CAT scans for about 380 diverse maize lines to develop high resolution, 3D images of the maize SAM at 14 days.
"Because maize has so much genetic diversity, the size and shape of the maize SAM actually varies significantly among different maize inbred lines. It is interesting to note that the size and shape of the maize SAM is affected by the growing conditions.
"Next, the group will use gene-mapping techniques to identify the genes that control the size and shape of the SAM and its response to planting densities."
Gardiner concluded by explaining why he believes knowing the genes that affect the size and shape of the SAM, and its response to different planting densities, will translate into to maize varieties that are better able to utilize sunlight, nutrients and water more effectively.
"It is generally accepted in the plant breeding community that development of maize varieties that can thrive under increased planting density account for a large part of the gains in yield achieved over the past 100 years. This was possible as corn breeding allowed us to develop maize varieties that can better capture sunlight in a smaller volume of space. In previous work, this group established that the size and shape of the SAM has a strong correlation to leaf width, leaf length, leaf number and stem width, all of which are agronomically important adult plant traits.
"It seems reasonable to assume that a better understanding of the genes that control the size and shape of the SAM will lead to a better understanding of phenotypic traits that determine the overall architecture of the mature corn plant. Once identified, these traits can be selected for early on in corn breeding programs and thus speed up the development of new hybrids. In research, you never know where your chosen path is going to take you, but if the past is a predictor of the future, you can have faith that eventually you will end up in a better place than you were at before. This is why research is so fundamental to any forward-looking society, and always will be."
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