Corn germplasm project celebrates 20 years with field day and open house


The Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project's demonstration field in Ames. Larger image. Photo courtesy of Candice Gardner.

AMES, Iowa – A project to increase the genetic diversity of seed corn is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an open house and field day on Friday, Sept. 20, to highlight the program’s history.
The Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) Project is devoted to increasing the genetic diversity of U.S. corn production.  Cooperators in the consortium include major stakeholders in corn genetics and breeding such as researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Iowa State University, industry and other public universities. GEM is inviting news media and the public to attend the GEM field day on Friday to talk about the project’s beginnings and where it’s going in the future.
After an hour-long program in the morning at the USDA North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station, located at the corner of Mortensen Road and State Avenue in Ames, attendees are welcome to explore the GEM demonstration field on the north side of Mortensen Road. The demonstration features examples of corn varieties that showcase a wide range of genetics from 19th century U.S. varieties, landmark historical lines and current elite hybrids.
Candice Gardner, an ISU collaborator assistant professor of agronomy and a research leader for the GEM Project, said the open house will offer visitors a new understanding of the importance of diverse genetics in finding solutions to the global challenges facing corn production.
“Diversity provides the genetic raw material that provides the genes and traits that enable development of solutions to production threats and challenges,” Gardner said. “The more genetic and performance information we have at our disposal, the more pieces of the puzzle are available to make corn more nutritious and more resistant to bad weather, pests and disease.”
The GEM Project field day is free of charge and open to the public. The program begins at 8:30 a.m., and members of the media are welcome.