Evaluating the Potential of Open-Pollinated Field Corn for Growers in the Northeast

2003 Annual Report for LNE02-171

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2002: $119,466.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $61,870.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Margaret Smith
Dept. Plant Breeding & Genetics, Cornell Univ.

Evaluating the Potential of Open-Pollinated Field Corn for Growers in the Northeast


During this project year, we established a second year of strip trials in NY and NH and small plot trials in NY to evaluate open-pollinated corn varieties for silage and grain use. We collected data on plant development, morphology, yield, and silage quality from 2003 trials. Additional data collection on grain quality, ear traits, and processing/cooking uses is underway. We described the project at two field days and numerous meeting for farmers, extension educators, researchers, and other interested individuals. We have been pleased with the level of interest expressed in this work.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The general objective of this project is to provide information to growers in the northeast about open-pollinated (OP) corn varieties. Field research is focused on characterization and comparative evaluation of OP varieties of corn. The complementary outreach goals are to make available an in-depth workshop and supporting documentation on seed saving techniques, to provide descriptive information to farmers and seed producers about OP varieties, and to make available agronomic evaluations and recommendations of OP corn varieties for grain and silage use. We identified the following performance targets as specific objectives of this work:
a. Forty growers in NY and NH will try OP corn varieties on their farms during this project.
b. Twenty-five interested growers and seed marketers will become aware of OP varieties with unique traits that might fit specialty markets.
c. Forty growers in the northeast will learn how to save their own seed of OP corn varieties and a significant share of them will plan to begin seed saving.


We are now at about the half-way point for this three-year project and have completed two field seasons. Major accomplishments for this project year include identifying farmer-cooperators, establishing the second season of field trials, collecting data on ear quality from the first year trials and agronomic data from second year trials, and conducting several outreach activities to let people know about the project and share first-year project data. Details are presented below by project milestones that are relevant for the first two project years.
Research Milestones:
a. Farmer collaborators decide to engage in research. We contacted and engaged with six farmer collaborators in NY and one in NH, all of whom hosted trials on their farms. We also engaged farm managers and conducted trials at two research farms in NY and one in NH.
b. Farmers and researchers establish trials. Strip trials to evaluate four promising OP varieties and two commercial hybrid checks were planted at three locations in NY and two locations in NH. Small plot trials to screen a broad range of OP varieties were established in NY. Varieties were grouped by maturity, with 28 OP varieties and four hybrid checks in the early maturity trial and 27 OP varieties and three hybrid checks in the late trial. Each was planted at three locations.
c. Researchers collect, analyze, and interpret data. Data collected on NH strip trials included plant stand, number of leaves and plant height at three and six weeks after planting, stalk strength, and silage yield, moisture, and quality. Plant population, grain yield, grain moisture, and stalk and root lodging data were collected on NY strip trials and grain quality analysis is underway. Extensive data collection was done on NY small plot trials, including plant morphology, plant development, and yield data. Data collection is underway on ear traits and grain samples will be subjected to processing and eating quality analyses. Testing for the presence of Bt and Roundup-Ready transgenes will be done on saved seed.
Outreach Milestones:
a. 36 farmers attend field days each year. Field days were conducted at Aurora, NY (1 August 200) and at Geneva, NY (12 August 2003). A total of 170 farmers participated in these field days, although fewer (perhaps half this number) were able to hear the talk on our open-pollinated corn project as there were multiple simultaneous presentations going on.
b. 300 farmers, extension educators, and seedsmen attend winter meetings and in-service presentations. This project was presented at several winter meetings for grower groups and/or researchers. These include the Northeastern Corn Improvement Conference in Ottawa, Canada on 13 February 2003 (60 people, mostly researchers but including a few growers), a grower meeting in Madison County, NY on 13 March 2003 (50 people), a meeting of the Public Seed Initiative on 19 March 2003 (20 people, all interested in selecting and saving their own seed), the Northeast Branch meeting of the American Society of Agronomy in Burlington, VT on 1 July 2003 (all researchers), the American Society of Agronomy meeting on 3 November 2003 (all researchers), and a meeting for Cornell University’s Organic Production and Marketing Program Work Team on 3 December 2003 (30 people, including both growers and researchers). In addition, informal discussion were held with about 30 growers at various winter meetings in NH in spring 2003.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our first field season was characterized by extreme drought pressure in NY and the second season by excessive rainfall! Despite this, we have two years of data on a broad range of OP varieties and have begun assembling a descriptive catalog of the varieties that we have evaluated. A broad range of growers, extension educators, field crop industry representatives, and researchers are aware of the project through field day and winter meeting presentations. We expect most of our performance targets to be achieved during the final project year, when we are in a position to provide multi-year evaluation data (farmers should never be choosing varieties based on single-season evaluations) and when we conduct our workshop on seed saving and selection. That said, we already have had requests for information about OP corn from several growers, which indicates that we are making progress on our first performance target (forty growers in NY and NH will try OP corn varieties on their farms). We will be preparing an article for Country Folks magazine (February 2004 issue) describing the project and variety evaluation results to date, which is timed to allow growers interested in OP corn to use this information in their seed purchasing decisions for the 2004 growing season.


Jane Mt. Pleasant

American Indian Program, Cornell University
482 Caldwell Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072551755