Findings on ‘NitroGenes’ to be shared at Agronomy Day
The populations, which include 20 lines each, are being examined to see if stacking all of the genes together improves nitrogen utilization, yield, and other agronomic traits. “We did see improvement in both yield and nitrogen utilization in our first year trial,” she said.
The populations represent the theoretical changes that could be made when selecting for changes in these nine NitroGenes simultaneously. Preliminary results indicated that the hybrids enriched for favorable NitroGenes produced higher-averaging nitrogen utilization when grown with either low or high levels of nitrogen supply. Enrichment can result in an 8.8 percent increase in acquired nitrogen (NUtE) within this population, corresponding to a yield increase of 6.9 percent, or 5 to 10 bushels per acre.
“We found that no line has all the good genes,” Moose said. “There are probably more, but those are the nine biggest ones we found in our initial screen. None of our lines have all nine, so we say, ‘let’s try to make one that has all nine, and see what it can do,’” Moose said.
Moose said he hopes the research will provide direction for how seed companies and the breeding industry produce.
“We had a way to figure out why some lines have better NUE than others. Historically, the corn genome has been so shuffled up that it becomes hard to find the genetic connections, but now we can zero right in on genes and even parts within the genes. We are building upon recent advances in plant genomics, and applying our know how in measuring NUE to the genetic base of current hybrids. Because it is now feasible to identify individual NitroGenes, we felt like we could actually stack them. Now we have results and we’re willing to talk about it,” he said.
With the study now in its second and final season, Moose said that the results from the previous field season indicate that their strategy to “pyramid” NitroGenes is a viable option for improving NUE and nitrogen-dependent yield, which could be translated to current elite germplasm.
Agronomy Day attracts more than 1,000 people each year seeking the latest information on technology and techniques to improve food and fuel production. For more information on speakers, topics, and displays, “like” University of Illinois Agronomy Day on Facebook, or visit the Agronomy Day website at http://agronomyday.cropsci.illinois.edu/.