The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) applauds the research of the scientific community for its work in completing a draft sequence of the corn genome, the first mapping of the corn genome in the world. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Plant Genome program dedicated three years and $30 million to achieve this contribution to plant science.
Valuable data provided by Ceres, Inc., Monsanto Company and DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred over the last several years was made available to researchers through NCGA’s MaizeSeq program. This database of pooled knowledge provided a comprehensive resource to researchers while the NSF program was under way, according to Joachim Messing, director of the Waksman Institute and a professor of molecular biology at Rutgers University. This latest breakthrough, combined with information already available, will further contribute to researchers’ understanding of plant genetics.
Completion of the maize genome sequence will increase breeding efficiency, streamline the delivery of new traits, as well as further the recognition and understanding of traits that will enhance corn's position as the ideal crop for food, feed, fuel and industrial uses.
This sequencing information has the ability to benefit existing and future research for the U.S. corn industry.
“Successfully sequencing the maize genome will have a phenomenal impact on agriculture and agricultural productivity,” says William S. Niebur, DuPont vice president, crop genetics research and development. “An enhanced understanding of the corn genome structure and function will allow us to more effectively explore the exclusive Pioneer germplasm galaxy and create a step-change in our corn research program to produce better hybrids more quickly and reliably.”
The contribution of the three companies helped maintain and accelerate momentum in the scientific community, as geneticists worked to continue their research and utilize the private data as a comparison point with the public releases by the NSF. The data will remain valuable as a comparative sequence to further understand the intricacies of the maize genome, and represents a key resource for understanding the functionality of all the genes in corn.
“This sequencing sharing agreement builds on the center's leadership role in the NSF-sponsored Maize Genomics Consortium currently evaluating and validating a gene-enrichment strategy,” says Robert Rose, director of public relations and government affairs at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. “We are proud of our role in housing the MaizeSeq database at the Danforth Center, which is administered and maintained by Center Principal Investigator Dr. Brad Barbazuk.”
As genomic research technology and techniques continue to advance over the years, NCGA thanks all segments of the corn industry for their support of the sequencing project. The next milestones are to finish putting the draft sequence together into a contiguous data set, then work to better understand the functionality of all the genes in corn to enable new discoveries and extract the plant’s full potential.
"The completion of a maize draft sequence is the first step in determining the function of all the genes in corn, which, in turn, will allow corn growers to plant corn hybrids that are better able to withstand drought and other stresses and are better suited to market and environmental needs," says NCGA President Ron Litterer. "Consumers will benefit from a more nutritious, abundant and sustainable food supply."
“This is a significant accomplishment in the advancement of corn technology research and development,” says Robert Fraley, Ph.D., chief technology officer and executive vice president for Monsanto. “As our population grows, and we look to help farmers meet the growing demands for food, feed and fuel, this important milestone will facilitate development of higher yielding hybrids and the successful addition of increasingly complex technology like drought tolerance and nitrogen utilization to get more out of each acre of corn.”

This project underscores NCGA’s continued commitment to advancements through research, Litterer adds. NCGA took a leading role in getting the Plant Genome Initiative signed into law in 1997 and continues to support this important effort. Today's announcement emphasizes that commitment.

“This project represents the best in public-private partnerships, and we’re pleased to know that the extensive corn sequence data we provided will not only be extraordinarily useful in helping to interpret the genome sequence, but will also be made broadly available to academic and public institutions in the U.S. and beyond,” says Richard Hamilton, chief executive of energy crop company Ceres, Inc. “Genomics-based technologies are playing a critical role in improving agricultural crops for food, feed, fiber and now fuels, and this type of project helps ensure that farmers will continue to see improvements in productivity, yield stability and reduced inputs.”

The National Corn Growers Association’s mission is to create and increase opportunities for corn growers. NCGA represents more than 33,000 members and 48 affiliated state organizations and hundreds of thousands of growers who contribute to state checkoff programs. For more information on NCGA, log on to www.ncga.com.

Ceres, Inc. (www.ceres.net) is a leading developer of high-yielding energy crops that can be planted as feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production. Its development efforts cover switchgrass, sorghum, miscanthus, energycane and woody crops. The privately held company also licenses its technology and traits to other organizations.

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a global vision to improve the human condition. Research at the Danforth Center will enhance the nutritional content of plants to improve human health, increase agricultural production to create a sustainable food supply and build scientific capacity to generate economic growth in the St. Louis region and throughout Missouri.

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information on Monsanto, see: http://www.monsanto.com