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Managing Reproductive Isolation in Hybrid Seed Corn Production


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 46 No. 4, p. 1445-1455
    Received: Jan 7, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): westgate@iastate.edu
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  1. D. S. Irelanda,
  2. D. O. Wilsonb,
  3. M. E. Westgate *c,
  4. J. S. Burrisd and
  5. M. J. Lauere
  1. a Doebler's Pennsylvania Hybrids, Inc., daleireland@doeblers.com
    b Landec Ag, Inc. 201 N. Michigan, Oxford, IN 47971, dwilson@landecag.com
    c Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011
    d Burris Consulting 1707 Burnett Ave, Ames, IA 50010, burrisconsulting@msn.com
    e Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., 6900 NW 62nd Avenue, Johnston, IA 50131, Michael.Lauer@Pioneer.com


Production of hybrid corn (Zea mays L) depends on cross-pollination between male and female inbred parents. As such, reproductive isolation of seed fields is required to ensure genetic purity of the hybrid progeny. Customer demand for improved genetic purity prompted the seed industry to examine the level of genetic purity resulting from current isolation practices. A 3-yr study was conducted to monitor purity of hybrid seed produced in 315 fields from 24 seed companies in North America. Each field was near a commercial corn field shedding pollen synchronously with the seed parent: a worse case scenario. Seed samples were collected at five locations along a 200-m transect established perpendicular to the nearest potential adventitious pollen source, and 100 seed from each location were subjected to isozyme analysis to determine percent out-crossing. Isolation distance, seed field size, field block size, number of border rows, adventitious field size, male:female row ratio, male population, and male pollen class were analyzed as continuous predictors and as variable class predictors of out-crossing at the field margins and field midpoints. Year had a significant (p ≤ 0.05) impact on observed out-crossing. Isolation distance, border rows, and male pollen class were significant predictors of out-crossing at the field margin but not at the field midpoint. A significant interaction between isolation distance and border rows was observed at both the field margin and midpoint. There also was an interaction between male:female ratio and male pollen class on out-crossing at the field margin. These results indicate that current practices used to isolate hybrid seed fields often achieve the goal of producing ≥99% genetically pure seed, but much higher levels of out-crossing can and do occur. Because out-crossing generally was greater and more variable at the field margins than at the field midpoint, adjustments to field management that focus on minimizing out-crossing at the field margins should lead to consistently high levels of genetic purity from hybrid seed fields.

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