Mapping of the corn genome opens up a new world of possibilities for producing more food, feed and fuel from maize.
The announcement was made last week that scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have completed the first ever mapping of the corn genome, only the second crop after rice to have its genome sequenced. The genetic data is available on-line at maizesequence.org.
The accomplishment, which was announced at the 50th Annual Maize Genetics Conference, is the result of a $30 million project initiated in 2005 and funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Richard K. Wilson, Ph.D., director of Washington University’s Genome Sequencing Center, says this is the first comprehensive glimpse at the blueprint for the corn plant. “Scientists now will be able to accurately and efficiently probe the corn genome to find ways to improve breeding and subsequently increase crop yields and resistance to drought and disease,” he said.
According to plant biologist Ralph S. Quatrano, Ph.D., chair of Washington University’s Department of Biology, “The genome will help unravel the basic biology of corn. That information can be used to look for genes that make corn more nutritious or more efficient for ethanol production, for example.”
According to the National Corn Growers Association, valuable data provided by Ceres, Inc., Monsanto Company and DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred over the last several years was made available to researchers through NCGA’s MaizeSeq program.
“The completion of a maize draft sequence is the first step in determining the function of all the genes in corn, which in turn, will allow corn growers to plant corn hybrids that are better able to withstand drought and other stresses and are better suited to market and environmental needs,” said NCGA President Ron Litterer. “Consumers will benefit from a more nutritious, abundant and sustainable food supply.”