Virtually all the corn grown in Texas was developed in the Midwest. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — hybrids developed in the Corn Belt yield well, and most of them stand up fairly well in Texas summers.

It makes sense, too, that the major corn seed companies would concentrate efforts where most of the corn is grown, and market those hybrids to the rest of the corn-producing areas.

But it also makes sense, says Texas AgriLife Research Corn Breeder Seth Murray, to develop hybrids for a specific geography and for conditions that are unique and more prevalent in that geography.

Public sector plant breeding can create those hybrids, he says. At the Texas A&M research farm at College Station, Murray has created 3,000 to 4,000 germplasm lines to screen for conditions prevalent in central and south Texas. Drought tolerance and aflatoxin resistance are primary goals, he says.

“We also screen for yield and other desirable traits. We have shown that corn developed in the region where it will be grown can make a difference. Currently, Texas farmers have few choices other than Midwestern derived hybrids. We’re trying to offer them more choices.”

The challenge for most seed companies, he says, is that the Texas market — 2 million acres a year — isn’t big enough to justify a major breeding investment.

“At Texas A&M we began breeding with a good collection of germplasm from around the world, including Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia, as well as from the Midwest.”

He says the Central and South America options may be good targets for drought and aflatoxin tolerance. An Argentine variety has shown some good population traits, but lacks the aflatoxin resistance he’s seeking.

Murray was recently recognized with the 2013 NAPB Early Career Award by the National Association of Plant Breeders and Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee. See the story at http://bit.ly/1anTebB

“We’ve pared screening down to the 70 best lines,” Murray says. “These are good some years, in some locations, but we haven’t seen enough data to commercialize them — yet.”