NMSU develops improved organic corn varieties
Project goals are much broader than making a number of tested cultivars available to growers in a few years. The researchers hope to develop "a sustainable corn breeding effort" that will continue beyond the timeframe of this particular grant. Part of that involves building a large network of like-minded organic farmers, seed companies and buyers to pool their efforts in advancing organic corn production. Through this project and the U.S. Testing Network, related research is being conducted in about 30 sites in 20 states.
Making the research methods and results widely available is another goal of this project, and one that is solidly in the tradition of land-grant universities like NMSU.
Pratt recently returned from the project's winter nursery in Puerto Rico where he and colleagues were putting in nine-hour days tending their corn plants. "This year we are each crossing to each other's most promising female parent for hybrid production," he said. "We help each other in the nursery and the experience of working together also develops a sense of commitment to the overall project."