Their search should help breeders add diversity to U.S. corn hybrids as insurance against unexpected pest outbreaks or other threats. The U.S. corn crop has an annual value of $18 billion.

In one cooperative research project, ARS geneticist Linda M. Pollak at the Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit, Ames, IA, is working with Wilson Genetics LLC, Harlan, IA, to characterize and compare starch and milling properties of 20 unique white corn lines.

Corn lines with the exotic genes have exhibited a wide variety of starch and milling traits that may be useful to the corn industry and add profits for corn producers. However, measuring these traits is difficult and expensive.

As part of the research, scientists will study unique corn lines and develop screening methods that will allow efficient breeding for digestibility and other traits. This cooperative work should increase the speed and efficiency of getting new specialty corn hybrids into the marketplace.