STTR Phase I: Epigenetically Enhanced Maize Hybrids

Project: Research project

Project Details


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project is to improve plant productivity by using a new epigenetic plant breeding technology to improve crop yields. This new technology optimizes epigenetic information in a plant to stimulate plant growth and vigor in a manner similar to hybrid plant vigor. This proposal seeks to combine this new method with traditional hybrids to increase plant yields. It is likely that insights into the epigenetic mechanisms involved in plants improved by this method will advance the understanding of the long-standing mystery of how heterosis increases yields in hybrid plants. Commercially, higher yielding crops are more profitable to farmers and seed producers, thereby increasing profitability throughout the rural agricultural economies. More importantly, these crops are better for the environment as they require less land, water, fuel, and fertilizer than traditional crops for equivalent yields. This STTR Phase I project proposes to test the hypothesis that the proposed epigenetic technology can increase yields in hybrid corn. The project's goal is to measure yields in field tests with the appropriate epigenetically improved hybrids to test this hypothesis. The project's objectives are to develop two sets of epigenetically modified corn plants to be crossed to heterotic parent plants for hybrid testing. One population will utilize a naturally occurring mutant in the Msh1 gene. The second population will be developed with RNAi silencing methods. Both populations will be screened for optimal phenotypic and molecular responses. Selected individual plants will be advanced for crossing in a winter nursery to produce hybrid seed. This epigenetically improved hybrid seed will be field tested for increased yields relative to control hybrid plants. The anticipated result is that higher yields will be observed, thereby demonstrating the breakthrough potential of this new technology.
Effective start/end date7/1/1512/31/16


  • National Science Foundation: $216,987.00


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