Quantitative Genetics and Maize Breeding
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Safe, secure, healthy, inexpensive and increasingly productive agricultural commodities are a cornerstone of increasing American prosperity. Maize (corn) is the most productive crop and farmers plant it because there is high end-user demand, it is easy to grow and often profitable. Plant breeding and agronomy have increased corn yields eight-fold over the last 100 years, a trend that began through research and development in the public sector. While the private sector now excels in corn improvement in the Midwest, the Southern US receives little investment and productivity is lagging. Major problems facing Southern US corn farmers include losses due to drought and aflatoxin (a carcinogen produced in the grain by a fungus); these problems are expected to increase in the Midwest under a changing climate. Corn losses can be most efficiently reduced through scientific plant breeding and genetic improvement. New and improved plant breeding techniques leveraging the latest in scientific technologies need to be developed to meet current and future crop production challenges.........