Experiment Station Record 2(4): 155-156 (1890)

Minn. Station, Bulletin No. 11, June 1890 (pp. 89-95).

CORN IMPROVED BY CROSS-FERTILIZATION AND SELECTION,
W. M. HAYS, B. S. A.

During the past two seasons the writer has made observations and experiments with reference to the best methods of growing, cross-fertilizing, and selecting corn with a view to the development of varieties especially suited to particular localities and uses. This work is especially important in the region of the station, for "along the northern edge of the corn belt no such clearly defined varieties are found as farmers have developed in sections farther south where corn is king." In 1888, as reported in Bulletin No. 7 of this station (see Experiment Station Record, Vol. I, p. 97), ears of numerous varieties were fertilized with pollen of other varieties, the ears being covered with bags made of cloth or paper to prevent the access of pollen to the silk in the ordinary way. Examples of these experiments are described to show how radically the form of the ear, kind of grain, etc., can be changed by artificial fertilization and careful selection of seed. The engraving printed in the bulletin represents some interesting results of cross-fertilization, showing reversion to more or less remote ancestors.

In 1888 Mercer Yellow Flint was planted at the station not far from Black Mexican sweet-corn; at harvest one to several black grains were found on several ears of the Mercer Flint; a dozen of these dark-colored grains were planted in 1889 in such a way that the plants were out of the reach of the pollen from other varieties. Ears were produced which proved that the Black Mexican corn had fertilized dark-colored grains on the ears of Flint the previous year. Besides the Yellow Flint and the Black Sweet grains, there were Yellow Sweet, Black Flint, White Sweet, and White Flint grains on nearly every ear. The appearance of White Sweet grains is explained on the assumption that the Black sweet-corn had at some previous time been mixed with a very light-colored variety of sweet-corn, while the White Flint grains may have come from a previous ancestor of White Flint, or even White Sweet. Moreover, the fact that on several of the ears were grains of sweet-corn of a reddish or flesh-colored tint, peculiar to a variety of sweet-corn called Early Narragansett, may indicate that this variety was among the ancestors of the Black Mexican Sweet.

"The practical lesson taught by the example of an ear with the six or seven kinds of corn shown is that we must 'breed' our corn for a number of years pure, and carefully select the seed, according to some type, if we would have distinct varieties. The principles of heredity may find as practical application in breeding corn as in breeding cattle. * * * Here both parents probably had recently been crossed with different varieties, and the different ancestral characteristics reappeared and determined the form or color, or both, of some of these kernels. * * * So, in corn growing, it pays to keep seed pure. Retain one intelligently selected type, and by cultivation and selection, and even by cross-fertilization, improve and 'fix' the desired type. * * * Farmers in every corn-growing locality should develop varieties of corn suited to the existing conditions and raise seed for sale." Practical suggestions as to the ways for doing this are given.