Has the last century of hybridization to increase yields changed the corn
plant's ability to adjust to new or stressful situations? University of
Wisconsin Professor of Agronomy Natalia de Leon, along with her student Joe
Gage and colleagues, hoped to answer this question.
Their study results suggest that by intensively breeding for yield, corn
breeders have limited the pool of possibilities for future North American
load/biotech-crop-annual-update-maize-2017.pdf> corn hybrids, thus creating
a smaller universe of available hybrids adaptable in responding to stresses
like drought or pests.
The research team collected data from a massive Genomes to Fields (G2F)
field trial including more than 850 unique corn hybrids at 21 locations
across North America. They measured traits like yield and plant height while
recording weather conditions and found that regions of the corn genome that
have undergone a high degree of selection have reduced capacity to respond
to variable environments than genomic regions that weren't directly acted on
by breeders. This indicates that breeders need to develop new hybrids that
acclimate to new or changing locations in the same area.