College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
Maize (Zea mays L.) is one of the most important crops in the United States and the world. In 2014, Minnesota corn growers produced corn on nearly 8 M acres statewide, and harvested approximately 1.2 billion bushels of grain. As a crop plant, maize has seen constant yield improvements over the past century due to many factors including improved genetics, the advent of hybrid seed production, changes in agronomic practices, and implementation of biotechnology. Maize is also unique in that beyond its agronomic importance, it also serves as a model system for genetic studies within the grasses and the broader scientific community.
This group's research is focused on further understanding the genotypic and phenotypic variation that exists in maize, determining the effects of plant breeding on that diversity, and identifying important genes and favorable alleles to contribute to our basic understanding of plant genomes and transcriptomes, as well as to continue improving maize as a crop plant. While dramatic improvements have been made, the ceiling for corn grain and stover yield has not been reached and there is much that we do not know about genotypic and phenotypic diversity relating to stress tolerance. Understanding genetic diversity, how genetic diversity relates to phenotypic diversity, and ultimately exploiting that knowledge through commercial varieties is essential to continual yield improvements in the future.