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Corn Breeding 102: The Next Lesson in Corn BreedingCorn Breeding 102: The Next Lesson in Corn Breeding

Inbreds, double crosses, single crosses and all that jazz!

Tom Bechman 1

October 14, 2014

2 Min Read

Don't miss Corn Breeding 101!

Inbred lines are the two parents that make up a hybrid. Plant breeders first select possible inbred lines form thousands upon thousands of candidates in nurseries. Then the next task is to find to inbred lines that best match with each other.


Dave Nanda, a plant breeder and now consultant for Seed Consultants, Inc., says that the process of finding an inbred line and then crossing it with another inbred line to form a hybrid that is better than other things on the market already can take up to 10 years from the time the first inbred is found until the seed arrives at your farm. Modern techniques in breeding are shaving years off that cycle, but it's still a long process.

There are lines that make better males, which provide the pollen but are never harvested for seed. And there are lines that make better females, which receive pollen from the males and are harvested for the seed. The seed from these female rows is hybrid corn, Nanda says. You plant it once and shoot for top yield. If you try to plant it again, it will begin to revert back into parent lines, and you won't have uniform plant types. You will have a rogue's gallery of plants, some being very good, but some perhaps not procuring an ear at all.

Through the years plant breeders have tried various concepts, including double crossing, which involves three or four parent lines. However, several decades ago most breeders concluded that the most hybrid vigor with the most yield kick came from the first cross of the right tow inbred lines with one another.

When you pour seed into your planter today, it's likely a single cross made by growing two inbred lines in the same seed field. If you visit the seed field, neither inbred would impress you, Nanda says. But the combination of genetics packed into offspring from the cross, coupled with cultural techniques, will carry you to higher average yields in the future.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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