All Ears At Abbott & Cobb Florida Sweet Corn Demo
Recently, I was invited by the folks at Abbott & Cobb seed company to come down and visit their sweet corn variety demonstration field south of Belle Glade. During the spring, the company invites growers and seed partners to tour the field to see what is new and in development in its breeding program.
New Technology Platform
This year, they are particularly excited about their new technology platform called SuperSeedWare or SSW for short. These are a new, patent-protected gene platform of sweet corn that are designed to improve performance of the crop under stress conditions such as early planting in cooler and wetter soil.
Luther McLaughlin and Wayne Cline were my guides on the tour of new varieties and those in development. Wayne is the company’s Florida SEEDWARE rep. They tell me other attributes of the SSW technology include earlier maturity, stronger stalks and root systems, measurable disease tolerance improvements, higher yield potential, and dramatically improved seed storage and shelflife.
SSW seeds look different than sh2 seeds because they look more like a kernel of dent corn versus the dimpled shrunken appearance of sh2 seeds. I am told this partly accounts for their strong germination. In fact, part of the learning curve for growers planting SSW varieties for the first time is getting the planting populations right.
Luther said it is important to note that the SSW varieties will likely germinate close to the planted population. Over-planting might result in too thick of stand, which might require thinning or a potential for smaller ear sizes.
The company is using marker-assisted breeding now to significantly speed up variety development.
“The advantage of the process is it really speeds up breeding,” Luther said. “Generally, it takes seven generations of breeding a variety to get to where you want to be with a plant. But, with marker assistance, you can get there in three generations. We are using this marker assitance technology mostly with our SSW conversions.
“When converting a variety to the SSW platform, we generally pick up a couple days of earlier maturity than their conventional counterpart.”
Luther emphasized this is a 100% natural process and is not GMO corn, but simply identifying the desirable traits in varieties using markers to brings those traits over to future generations.
In the field trial, about 300 SSW varieties were evaluated.
“We are looking for all the traits growers like in current varieties and then stack the SSW platform on top of that and then begin evaluating this new material as well,” Luther said. “We might start out with 1,000 varieties and then through evaluations, it gets whittled down to a handful of varieties that make it.”
The company currently has 10 SSW varieties that are commercially available. In Florida, during the spring season, SS7501 has been most popular with growers for higher eating quality markets because of its taste and quality. Luther also told me that SS3880MR is looking promising for all seasons for its plantability, plant health, disease resistance, holding ability, and yield.