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

2004 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 the third and final year of strip 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 2004 trials. Additional data collection on grain quality, ear traits, and processing/cooking uses is underway. We described the project at one field day 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 have now completed our final field season for this project. Major accomplishments for this project year include identifying farmer-cooperators, establishing the third season of field trials, collecting data on ear and cooking quality traits from the second year trials and agronomic data from third year trials, and conducting several outreach activities to let people know about the project and share second-year project data. Details are presented below by project milestones.

Research Milestones:
a. Farmer collaborators decide to engage in research. We contacted and engaged with six farmer collaborators in NY, all of whom hosted trials on their farms. We also engaged farm managers and conducted trials at one research farm in NY.
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. Small plot trials of these same hybrids were planted at two NY locations to evaluate silage yield and quality. Finally, small plot trials to screen a broad range of OP varieties were established in NY. Varieties in these trials were grouped by maturity, with 35 OP varieties and four hybrid checks in the early maturity trial and 37 OP varieties and three hybrid checks in the late maturity trial. Each trial was planted at three locations.
c. Researchers collect, analyze, and interpret data. Plant population, grain yield, grain moisture, and stalk and root lodging data were collected on strip trials and grain quality analysis is underway. Small plot silage trials included assessments of plant population, dry matter content, yield, and silage quality. Extensive data collection was done on the many OP varieties in the small plot grain 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. A field day was conducted at Aurora, NY (29 July 2004) with 20 extension educators participating and over 50 farmers, researchers, and educators viewing a poster describing this work.
b. 300 farmers, extension educators, and seedsmen attend winter meetings and in-service presentations. This project was presented as a poster as at the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Conference in Burlington, VT on 9-21 October 2004 (hard copy submitted as additional material associated with this report). Approximately 600 growers, extension educators, researchers, and administrators attended.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our first field season was characterized by extreme drought pressure in NY and the second and third seasons by excessive rainfall! Despite this, we have three 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 by the project end date, 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 make available our workshop on seed saving and selection. That said, we already have had requests for information about OP corn from a number of growers and extension educators, 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).


Jane Mt. Pleasant

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