The seed industry generates tremendous value from hybrid crops relative to varietal or self-pollinated crops. For example, while corn (a hybrid crop) and soybeans (a self-pollinated crop) were planted on approximately the same land area in the U.S. in 2017, the total value of the corn hybrid seed industry was greater than 4x the value of the soybean seed industry. However, producing hybrid seed is expensive relative to self or open-pollinated crops. In some crops, such as soybeans and wheat, the biology of the plant is prohibitive to the economical production of hybrid seed, thus disabling the realization of the benefits of hybridity in these crops. Enabling a crop such as wheat to be produced as a hybrid would have an annual value exceeding several billion dollars.This project will develop methods to scale the preservation and storage of maize pollen and to enable on-demand use of the pollen. On-demand use of maize pollen in seed production will improve and enable hybrid seed production, thus improving agricultural productivity and food availability.
Seed production methods have not changed since the advent of hybrid maize in the 1920s. Novel cost effective methods are needed to decrease the cost of goods and increase seed yield, and which can be applied to enable hybridity in other crops.In general, the goal of this project is to scale the preservation and storage of maize pollen to the extent that it would be cost-effective to utilize pollen on-demand in hybrid seed production. This would decrease the cost of hybrid seed production and increase productivity. Spectifically, the Objectives of our Phase II demonstration project are to achieve the following:1. Scale up a cost-effective pollen preservation and storage protocol for use under typical commercial maize parent seed and hybrid seed production (target: 1-4 acres application)2. Apply scaled-up protocols to multiple maize inbreds varying in pollen production under typical parent seed and hybrid seed production conditions (target: 10 commercial inbreds varying in maleness&, i.e. suitability for hybrid seed production).