USDA scientists and their colleagues have completed a four-year effort to sequence the genome of corn, an achievement expected to speed up development of corn hybrids. The results represent the largest and most complex plant genome sequenced to date, and are the cover story in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Science. To view the story online, check out www.sciencemag.org.

The sequencing will help researchers uncover the relationships between corn genes and traits, develop an overall picture of the plant's genetic makeup and broaden understanding of how the complex interplay of genetics and environment determines the plant's health and viability.

The work also is expected to lead to development of corn varieties with higher yields and better tolerance of droughts, pests and diseases. It also should help scientists produce varieties with fibers, stalks and cellular structures that will make corn a better source of biofuel.

“This is a milestone for all of our nation's corn farmers that will open the door for higher yields, improved grain quality traits for livestock and industry needs and, it is probably one of the greatest accomplishments since Gregor Mendel's work 150 years ago,” says National Corn Growers Association Research and Business Development Chair Larry Hasheider, a corn farmer from Okawville, IL.