Corn Breeding: Lessons From the Past - Overview and Objectives

This is the first in a series of lessons specifically designed to instruct individuals without any formal training in genetics or statistics about the science of corn breeding. Individuals with formal training in genetics or statistics but without any training in plant breeding also may find these lessons beneficial.

To learn more about the science of corn breeding, a reasonable starting place is a review of the history of corn breeding. You can learn much by considering the failures and successes of past breeding efforts and the causes behind these. In subsequent lessons, many of the concepts introduced in this lesson will be examined in more detail.


At the completion of this lesson you will be able to

  • describe the basic anatomy and reproductive biology of a corn plant,
  • name the two races of corn that are the parents of the Corn Belt Dent race,
  • define what is meant by “open-pollinated variety” (OPV) and name several historically important open-pollinated varieties (OPVs),
  • discuss two reasons why grain productivity did not increase in the United States from 1870 to 1930,
  • define inbreeding and the consequences of inbreeding in corn,
  • describe how to develop an inbred and a single-cross hybrid of corn, and
  • name three reasons for the remarkable gains made in corn performance from 1930 to the present.
JNRLSE Approved, 2005