Horticultural Crops
November 24, 2017, Toronto, Ont – The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission recently announced the establishment of a new Berry Growers of Ontario (BGO) marketing board under Ontario Regulation 383/17 (Berries - Plan) of the Farm Products Marketing Act.

The new organization will represent Ontario blueberry, raspberry and strawberry growers.

Under the regulation, the commission was required to appoint members to serve on BGO's first board of directors. The appointed directors include:

Blueberry Growers
 
Kerry Copestake
Brambleberry Farm
Wooler, ON
 
Steve Kustermans
Kustermans Berry Farms
Mt. Brydges, ON

Dusty Zamecnik
EZ Grow Farms
Langton, ON  

Strawberry Growers

Kevin Howe
G & M Howe & Sons Ltd.
Aylmer, ON

Graham Shaw
Taylor Strawberry Farm
Windermere, ON

Matt Tigchelaar
Tigchelaar Berry Farm
Jordan, ON
 
Raspberry Growers

Alex McKay
Willowtree Farm
Port Perry, ON

Tom Heeman
Heeman Strawberry Farm
Thames Centre, ON

Brian Rijke
Dentz Orchards & Berry Farm
Iroquois, ON

Member terms began on November 15, 2017, and will end upon the first meeting of a newly elected board in 2018. In 2018, all directors will be elected by producer members.

While Ontario Regulation 383/17 establishes BGO and defines its governance framework, Ontario Regulation 428/17: Berries - Marketing delegates BGO powers to regulate the production and marketing of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in Ontario. The proposed marketing regulation would give BGO the powers to license berry growers; set and collect licence fees; require berry growers to provide information and establish an industry advisory committee.
Published in Marketing
November 21, 2017, Windsor, Ont – Product traceability is critical for food processors, and an Essex County company specializing in agricultural automation has been helping them sustainably improve for 27 years.

“Automation was almost non-existent in agriculture 30 years ago, but there was obviously a need for it,” says Joe Sleiman, founder and president of Ag-Tronic Control Systems, an automation technology company based near Windsor.

“We started by looking at ways to help local produce growers improve efficiency, and do so in a more sustainable way. Now we have clients throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and we’re in the process of expanding to South America, Europe and Australia,” he says.

Together with his wife Samia, Sleiman started Ag-Tronic Control Systems in 1991 to market and improve his own automation equipment. At the time, that included a height control system for tomato harvesters, tractor guidance equipment, and a plant watering system.

With these accomplishments, Sleiman was asked by local greenhouse growers to design a better cucumber grading system, and improve a labelling system for tray packed tomatoes.

The market success of those tomatoes, though, created a new challenge: the mislabelling of produce once tomatoes were removed and repackaged. This caused losses at the retail level, prompting the same growers to request a labelling system that could apply stickers directly to the tomato body instead of the packing box.

With the success of his new direct-label system, Sleiman created a sub-company called Accu-Label Inc. in 2001.

Under the Accu-Label brand, he developed both an automated label machine and biodegradable, paper stickers. Combined with a recyclable liner – the parchment on which the stickers sit – he started marketing his product as both cost-saving and more sustainable than those using plastic stickers.

“Our goal was to provide better performance with more sustainably,” he says. “Plastic stickers are already used, but no one wants to eat that. People also hate that they can’t be recycled.”

A number of additional technologies were also created, including a handheld unit for smaller packers, and a larger portable machine that lets food retailers put their own brand onto a product wherever and whenever they require.

A more user-friendly labelling machine was unveiled in 2008 that negated potential problems associated with the labeller’s liner removal system.

“We developed a system to print labels on-the-go, including bar and trace codes,” says Sleiman. “That means marketers can get both traceability and their own brand right on the produce in a safe, efficient way.”

More recently, Sleiman launched a camera attachment that automatically monitors labels after printing. This, he says, helps ensure each sticker is printed properly, and further improves product traceability.

“We’re providing this for free to everyone who has our Print & Apply brand label machines,” he says. “It’s part of our commitment to ensure our customers continue to have the latest and best fruit labeling technology.”
Published in Profiles
Delta, BC, November 20, 2017 – Farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation to the next. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.

The federal government recently announced a $1.8 million investment with the University of British Columbia to determine carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, and develop beneficial management practices (BMPs) for increasing the efficiency of fertilizer use in blueberry, potato and forage crops.

“This project will provide new science-based knowledge on net GHG emissions by accurately measuring GHG emissions and developing mitigation technologies for blueberry, potato and forage crops in the Lower Fraser Valley,” said Dr. Rickey Yada, dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. “The research team will use state-of-the-art instrumentation and automated measurement techniques to quantify annual GHG emissions. While the specific research objectives are targeted to fill regionally identified gaps in knowledge, they will be applicable more broadly to similar agricultural production systems across Canada and Global Research Alliance member countries.”

This project with the University of British Columbia is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
Published in Research
November 17, 2017, Charleston, SC – Broccoli is becoming more popular with consumers, providing plenty of nutrients in the diet. But it isn’t easy getting this cool-weather vegetable to kitchen tables. Broccoli producers face many factors that impede getting their crop to market – including unexpected temperature fluctuations and excessive heat. Heat stress while broccoli’s florets are developing can reduce crop yield and quality.

Broccoli has been grown in Europe for centuries, but it has only been grown in North America since the late 1800s, when it was probably introduced by Italian immigrants. Although California is the major producing state, broccoli is grown in nearly every other state, especially along the eastern seaboard.

The likelihood of high-temperature stress occurring in a given location or season is the main factor limiting where and when the crop can be grown. Breeding heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars could extend the growing season, expand production areas, and increase resilience to fluctuating temperatures, but efforts to do this have been limited by a lack of knowledge about the genetics of heat tolerance.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist Mark Farnham and his team at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, are filling in those knowledge gaps. They have developed and characterized genetic sources of heat tolerance in broccoli. These results were published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics in March 2017.

The team evaluated a group of broccoli plants that Farnham developed for the ability to tolerate high-temperature stress during summer.

“We identified genetic markers associated with resistance to heat damage in these plants,” says Farnham. “An important finding of this work is that the resistance trait is a complex trait controlled by many genes, which makes it a bit harder to work with. However, these markers are of great interest to public and private broccoli breeders, who can use some additional tools in their work to accelerate the development of heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars.”

To determine how well Farnham’s heat-tolerant broccoli will do in different stress environments, he is working with scientists at land-grant universities on the eastern seaboard that are growing his broccoli in warm-temperature field trials. Once they verify that his broccoli will do well under adverse conditions in different locations, it will be made available for research purposes or for use by commercial seed companies and breeders.

The heat-tolerant broccoli could help expand future growing possibilities significantly, helping to meet the demand for the nutritious vegetable.
Published in Research
November 14, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The HortSnacks-to-Go 2017/2018 webinar series continues on November 20, 2017, with Using Biocontrols in Field Scale Fruit and Vegetable Crops.

“Presenter Ronald Valentin is North America technical lead at Bioline AgroSciences,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “He’ll be looking at how other areas of the world are using biological controls in field scale vegetable and fruit crops and how Alberta producers can take advantage of this growing area.”

The webinar takes place at 1:30 p.m. MT and there is no charge to attend. To register, email Dustin Morton or go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8212513318118325250
Published in Insects
November 10, 2017, Wallaceburg, Ont – The Processing Vegetable Growers’ Alliance (PVGA) released its official response to the itemized list of proposed changes the Farm Products Marketing Commission announced on October 12 to Regulation 440 of the Farm Products Marketing Act.

“We have carefully reviewed the list of changes the commission is proposing to Reg 440, and will be providing a detailed response as part of the online consultation period,” says Francis Dobbelaar, PVGA chair. “We are extremely disappointed and concerned with several of the changes and the impact they will have on growers.”

Regulation 440 governs a number of important issues impacting the processing vegetable sector in Ontario, including the negotiation process between growers and processors.

PVGA points to three particular portions of the proposed Reg 440 changes that will cause the most concern for Ontario growers – the implementation of a new two-round negotiation process, removal of final offer arbitration for contract negotiations, and the creation of a new Industry Advisory Committee with grower representatives hand-picked by the commission rather than elected by and accountable to the growers.

PVGA believes all 10 grower positions on a new Industry Advisory Committee (IAC) must be chosen by growers and not appointed by the commission. Given that the current OPVG board is not fully grower elected, PVGA requests that IAC members for 2017/2018 are elected directly by growers.

PVGA opposes the creation of negotiating agencies that would see that growers associated with a particular processor are able to negotiate directly with that processor.

PVGA does not support changes that would eliminate final offer arbitration and the process that currently requires arbitrators to select one party’s final offer in its entirety.

“We are encouraging every processing vegetable grower to take part in the consultation process on Reg 440,” says Dobbelaar. “We need to have our voices heard, and advocate for the kind of industry that encourages innovation, collaboration and progress.”

PVGA’s detailed response to Reg 440 changes are posted at PVGAlliance.org. Growers are reminded there is one remaining in-person consultation on November 23 and online submissions are open until December 11, 2017. All details are available on the Farm Products Marketing Commission website.
Published in Associations
November 9, 2017, Columbus, OH – An experimental “golden” potato could hold the power to prevent disease and death in developing countries where residents rely heavily upon the starchy food for sustenance, new research suggests.

A serving of the yellow-orange lab-engineered potato has the potential to provide as much as 42 per cent of a child’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34 per cent of a child’s recommended intake of vitamin E, according to a recent study co-led by researchers at Ohio State University.

Women of reproductive age could get 15 per cent of their recommended vitamin A and 17 per cent of recommended vitamin E from that same 5.3 ounce (150 gram) serving, the researchers concluded.

The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE

Potato is the fourth most widely consumed plant food by humans after rice, wheat and corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is a staple food in some Asian, African and South American countries where there is a high incidence of vitamin A and vitamin E deficiencies. 

“More than 800,000 people depend on the potato as their main source of energy and many of these individuals are not consuming adequate amounts of these vital nutrients,” said study author Mark Failla, professor emeritus of human nutrition at Ohio State.

“These golden tubers have far more vitamin A and vitamin E than white potatoes, and that could make a significant difference in certain populations where deficiencies – and related diseases – are common,” said Failla, a member of Ohio State’s Foods for Health Discovery Theme.

Vitamin A is essential for vision, immunity, organ development, growth and reproductive health. And Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Vitamin E protects against oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions associated with damage to nerves, muscles, vision and the immune system.

In Failla’s lab, researchers created a simulated digestive system including a virtual mouth, stomach and small intestine to determine how much provitamin A and vitamin E could potentially be absorbed by someone who eats a golden potato. Provitamin A carotenoids are converted by enzymes into vitamin A that the body can use. Carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments that provide yellow, red and orange colours to fruits and vegetables. They are essential nutrients for animals and humans.

“We ground up boiled golden potato and mimicked the conditions of these digestive organs to determine how much of these fat-soluble nutrients became biologically available,” he said.

The main goal of the work was to examine provitamin A availability. The findings of the high content and availability of vitamin E in the golden potato were an unanticipated and pleasant surprise, Failla said.

The golden potato, which is not commercially available, was metabolically engineered in Italy by a team that collaborated with Failla on the study. The additional carotenoids in the tuber make it a more nutritionally dense food with the potential of improving the health of those who rely heavily upon potatoes for nourishment.

While plant scientists have had some success cross-breeding other plants for nutritional gain, the improved nutritional quality of the golden potato is only possible using metabolic engineering – the manipulation of plant genes in the lab, Failla said.

While some object to this kind of work, the research team stresses that this potato could eventually help prevent childhood blindness and illnesses and even death of infants, children and mothers in developing nations.

“We have to keep an open mind, remembering that nutritional requirements differ in different countries and that our final goal is to provide safe, nutritious food to nine billion people worldwide,” said study co-author Giovanni Giuliano of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development at the Casaccia Research Centre in Rome.

Failla said “hidden hunger” – deficiencies in micronutrients – has been a problem for decades in many developing countries because staple food crops were bred for high yield and pest resistance rather than nutritional quality.

“This golden potato would be a way to provide a much more nutritious food that people are eating many times a week, or even several times a day,” he said.
Published in Research
If I were giving out awards to businesses that offer an exceptional tourism experience, I would present one to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland.
Published in Marketing
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the mould on it could destroy the fruit in storage.
Published in Production
For the last 32 years, a typical day running Whittamore’s Farm in Markham during the busy planting and tourism season has started at 5:30 a.m. – at the latest. At the agri-tainment powerhouse farm business, Mike Whittamore has owned and operated the farm’s Pick-Your-Own fruit and vegetable business, and his brother, Frank, and Frank’s wife Suzanne have owned and operated the onsite Farm Shop (freshly-picked produce, baked goods and preserves) as well as the Fun Farm Yard and Pumpkinland, both replete with farm-themed activities.
Published in Profiles
It’s often been said that a grape grower’s heart and soul is in the vineyard. Even though Ontario’s new grape king, Doug Whitty, may be the latest of three kings to either own or have strong ties to one winery, he believes that future royalty will be stand-alone growers, as in the past.
Published in Profiles
Pests in food-handling environments threaten product safety and create an unpleasant sight for employees and visitors. In addition to physically damaging the product or its packaging, some pests can carry and transmit diseases like E. coli, Salmonella and hantavirus. When products become infested or contaminated, they not only impact a business’s bottom line but also its reputation.
Published in Safety
When Tahir Raza came to Canada from Pakistan in 1994, he did not expect to be an owner of an award-winning orchard.
Published in Profiles
According to my children – and myself at times – I’m ancient. I grew up in those heady days before TV remotes and hand-held video games, back when where you stood in a room played a role in whether the TV station would come in clear. I remember when personal computers became mainstream. My first PC was gigantic, composed of three heavy, bulky components that could each serve as a boat anchor. The PC was going to revolutionize work. Hello three-day workweek.
Published in Harvesting
November 6, 2017, Athens, GA – Working with an international team of breeders and genome scientists, plant biologists at the University of Georgia have sequenced the genome of garden asparagus as a model for sex chromosome evolution.

The work sheds light on longstanding questions about the origin and early evolution of sex chromosomes, and at the same time serves as a foundation for asparagus breeding efforts.

Their research, the first confirmation of early models on how sex chromosomes diverge within the same species, was published recently in Nature Communications.

While most flowering plants are hermaphrodites, garden asparagus plants are typically either male (XY) or female (XX), although YY “supermales” can be produced in the greenhouse. Growers prefer all-male plants, as they live longer and do not self-seed. Breeders produce all-male XY seed by crossing an XX female, with a YY supermale. Until now the differences between asparagus X and Y chromosomes were not understood and breeders were not able to distinguish XY males from YY supermales without time-consuming test crosses.

“One of the things that we were able to do pretty early in our collaboration was to identify genetic markers that allowed breeders to efficiently distinguish XY males from YY males and then use those YY males to produce all-male seed,” said Jim Leebens-Mack, professor of plant biology and senior author on the study.

Understanding the genetic variation in plants that allows for XY and YY males was advanced by identification of the genes that determine sex, which paves the way for more efficient development and production of valuable hybrid asparagus plants.

“In addition to more rapid identification of sex genotypes, our collaborators are now able to manipulate the asparagus Y chromosome to convert males to females or hermaphrodites. In the near future, breeders will be able to cross whatever lines they want, without having to look within a particular line for the female that has one set of characteristics, and in another line for a male with complementary traits,” Leebens-Mack said.

Questions about the great diversity of sexual systems in plants go back to Charles Darwin, and a two-gene model for the origin of sex chromosomes was coined by Danish geneticist Mogens Westergaard in the early 20th century. But the theory was impossible to test through analyses of humans and mammal sex chromosomes, where divergence of the X and Y chromosomes happened tens of millions ago.

Flowering plants like asparagus, however, have more recent origins of separate sexes and sex chromosomes, presenting an ideal opportunity to test Westergaard's two-gene model while at the same time aiding crop breeding programs.

The researchers found that, as predicted by Westergaard and others, linkage of a gene necessary for male function with a gene stunting development of female organs on a small portion of the Y chromosome was the starting point for the evolution of asparagus sex chromosomes.

“Over the last hundred years, evolutionary biologists have hypothesized several ways that a regular pair of chromosomes can evolve into an X and Y pair that determine sex,” said Alex Harkess, former doctoral student in the Leebens-Mack lab and lead author on the study. “Our work confirms one of these hypotheses, showing that a sex chromosome pair can evolve by mutations in just two genes – one that influences pollen (male) development, and one that influences pistil (female) development.”

“Breeders have dreamed about manipulating sex determination in garden asparagus for decades,” said co-author Ron van der Hulst of Limgroup breeding company in the Netherlands. “Identification of sex determination genes in asparagus will now allow us to produce plants with male, female and bisexual flowers, and greatly speed the development of inbred lines to produce elite hybrid seed.”

Co-author and Italian asparagus breeder Agostino Falavigna also noted that the reference genome for garden asparagus will enable him and other breeders to more efficiently use wild relatives as sources for genes that could enhance disease resistance, spear quality, flavour, aroma and antioxidant content.
Published in Research
November 6, 2017, Charlottetown, PEI – A company involved in shipping seed potatoes from P.E.I. to Venezuela has successfully appealed a court order to pay more than $79,000.

In a recent decision, two of three P.E.I. Court of Appeal judges agreed to vacate a summary judgment order for HZPC Americas Corporation to pay Havanlee Farms Inc. READ MORE
Published in Companies
November 1, 2017, Simcoe, Ont – Members of the Ontario South Coast Wineries and Growers Association are finishing a good second consecutive harvest that will let them draw even more distance away from disastrous seasons a few years ago.

"The 2016 growing season brought a good quality harvest and this year will be almost as good," said Mike McArthur, co-owner of Burning Kiln Winery on Front Road just outside St. Williams, who earlier this year finished an eight-year stint as the association's founding chairman. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
October 31, 2017, East Lansing, MI – The old adage of looking to the past to understand the future certainly applies to improving potatoes.

Examining the ancestors of the modern, North American cultivated potato has revealed a set of common genes and important genetic pathways that have helped spuds adapt over thousands of years. The study appears in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Robin Buell, Michigan State University Foundation professor of plant biology and senior author of the paper, shows potential genetic keys that could ensure the crop will thrive in the future.

“Worldwide, potato is the third most important crop grown for direct human consumption, yet breeders have struggled to produce new varieties that outperform those released over a century ago,” Buell said. “By analyzing cultivated potato and its wild relatives using modern genomics approaches, we were able to reveal key factors that could address food security in 21st century agriculture.”

Cultivated potatoes – domesticated from wild Solanum species, a genetically simpler diploid (containing two complete sets of chromosomes) species – can be traced to the Andes Mountains in Peru, South America.

While the exact means of the potato migration are unknown, spuds essentially spread worldwide since their domestication some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. As potatoes were taken from the more equatorial regions of Peru and Bolivia to the southern parts of South America, they became adapted to longer summer days in Chile and Argentina.

One aspect that is known is how Spanish conquistadors introduced potatoes upon return from their South American exploits to the European continent, where potatoes were quickly adapted as a staple crop. As the explorers ventured from Europe to North America, they also brought potatoes to the new world.

Scientific explorer Michael Hardigan, formerly at MSU and now at the University of California-Davis, led the team of MSU and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University scientists. Together, they studied wild landrace (South American potatoes that are grown by local farmers) and modern cultivars developed by plant breeders. The result was the largest crop re-sequencing study to date.

Not only did it involve substantial re-sequencing of potato, but it also tackled one of the most-diverse crop genomes. The modern spuds found in today’s kitchens are genetically complex tetraploid potatoes, having four-times the regular number of chromosomes. Potatoes’ complex genome harbors an estimated 39,000 genes. (In comparison, the human genome comprises roughly 20,000 genes.)

From the large gene pool, the researchers identified 2,622 genes that drove the crop’s early improvement when first domesticated.

Studying the gene diversity spectrum, from its wild past to its cultivated present, can provide an essential source of untapped adaptive potential, Buell said.

“We’ll be able to identify and study historic introgressions and hybridization events as well as find genes targeted during domestication that control variance for agricultural traits,” she said. “Many of these help focus on adapting to different climates, fending off different pathogens or improving yield, keys that we hope to better understand to improve future breeding efforts.”

For example, wild potatoes reproduce through berries and seeds. Cultivated potatoes are asexual and are food and seed in one. (Anyone who’s left a potato in a dark pantry too long has witnessed this trait firsthand.)

The researchers present evidence of the signatures of selection in genes controlling this change. They also shed light on a role of wild species in genetic pathways for fighting pests and processing sugars for food. Diving into somewhat obscure territory, they looked at potential genetic sources that control circadian rhythm; yes, plants also have 24-hour clocks controlling biological processes. 

“We knew about their physiological traits, but we didn’t know what genes were involved,” Buell said. “As potatoes were moved, they had to adapt to longer days, more hours of sunlight. We’re now starting to understand what’s happening at the genetic level and how wild Solanum species evolved to long-day adapted tetraploid potatoes.”
Published in Research
October 30, 2017, Guelph, Ont – The Advanced Farm Management Program (AFMP) is open for registration for the 2017-18 fall and winter season.

Sessions specific to direct farm marketers are being offered by the Agri-food Management Institute (AMI) in partnership with the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association.

“This program is designed for Ontario farm business owners and managers who want to elevate their management skills to improve their business performance,” says AMI Executive Director Ashley Honsberger. “We know from our past research that good farm management habits are directly linked to stronger profitability and that continuous learning is the number one habit of Canada’s most successful farm businesses.”

AFMP includes five intensive one-day sessions with farm management specialists who will cover key business concepts and help participants apply these to a case study. At the end of the program, participants will have a completed management action plan for their farm business that’s ready for implementation.

Tuition is $725 plus HST and includes breakfasts and lunches. A second participant from the same operation can register for $450 plus HST. Participants who register by November 10, 2017 receive a 10 per cent early bird tuition discount; program costs are subsidized by AMI. Final registration deadline is November 20.

The direct farm marketer sessions will take place at the Best Western Plus, Milton, on November 30, December 18, January 15, January 29 and February 12, with a weather-related make-up day scheduled for February 26 if needed.

For more information or to register, visit www.advancedfarmmanagement.ca, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call AMI at 519-822-6618.
Published in Associations
October 30, 2017, Ames, IA – Organic agriculture practices eschew many synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, putting pressure on crops that conventional farming circumvents. That means an organic farmer who doesn’t use herbicides, for instance, would value crop varieties better suited to withstand weeds.

Enter Thomas Lubbserstedt, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. Lubberstedt and a team of ISU researchers recently received a four-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance organic corn varieties. By the end of the project, the team aims to have identified elite varieties that will improve the performance of corn under organic growing conditions.

“Our main goal is to figure out whether new genetic mechanisms can benefit organic field and sweet corn varieties,” Lubberstedt said. “We want to develop traits that can do well under organic conditions.”

Lubberstedt said the research could lead to organic corn with better resistance to disease, weeds pests and environmental stress.

Farmers who label their products as organic adhere to standards meant to restrict the use of synthetic inputs that include many fertilizers and pesticides in an effort to maintain environmental sustainability. Demand for organic products is growing as consumers become more concerned about how their food is produced and how it affects the environment, said Kathleen Delate, a professor of agronomy and member of the research team. Delate said the U.S. market for organic products reached $47 billion in 2016.

The ISU research team intends to address limitations imposed by organic practices by finding genetic mechanisms that lead to better-performing corn varieties that can still meet organic standards. Lubberstedt will focus on varieties that carry a genetic mechanism for spontaneous haploid genome doubling. This allows a corn plant to carry only the genes of its mother.

Researchers can use these haploids to create totally inbred genetic lines in two generations, whereas traditional plant breeding takes five or six generations to produce inbred lines, Lubberstedt said. These inbred lines are more reliable for evaluation in an experimental setting because they carry no genetic variation that could influence results. That makes it easier to identify lines with superior traits, he said.
Published in Research

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