Our Focus for Corn Breeding:
To prevent seedling diseases associated with using untreated seed and to avoid cross-pollination with neighboring conventional corn, organic corn is planted several weeks to over a month later than conventional corn. The late planting, however, forces organic farmers into using early maturity cultivars from the Midwest. These varieties do not have resistance to common diseases, such as Southern corn leaf blight found in the Southeast. Compounding the problem is the increasing pressure from certifiers to use organic seed, even if it means using varieties less adapted to the region. Virtually all Southeastern varieties with current disease resistance are owned by large companies who view the organic market as too small to cater to. The only solution to this logjam is the release of public cultivars appropriate to the region for distribution by smaller seed dealers. Preliminary data from NCSU corn breeders has identified some hybrids that may perform well in organic management conditions.
Needs Identified by Farmers:
- GMO Cross Contamination
- Breeding challenge: inbred corn does not compete well with weeds
- Dr. Major Goodman, NC State corn breeder, has incorporated new crossing barrier genes into several breeding lines that will be released to the public in 2013. We hope that hybrids with these genes will become commercially available soon.
- Dr. Goodman will utilize the double cross method for production of organic hybrid corn seed so that the first cross using inbreds unable to compete with weeds can utilize herbicides, while the second cross, made in organic conditions for organic certified seed production, will utilize the more vigorous, weed-competitive hybrids.
In 2013, BOPS began testing the following organic corn varieties:
928×927 DKHBA1xNC476xNC320.NC368 1471×72/09