Report from the High Mowing Breeding & Production Fields: Our Current Breeding Projects
- Jodi Lew-Smith, Ph.D -
Director of Research &
Organic Sweet Corn
Last year was the start of our sweet corn breeding project.
We began by making test crosses between finished inbred lines from the
University of Wisconsin sweet corn breeding program to determine which
combinations would produce a superior hybrid offspring. This year we
grew out all those test crosses and also the inbred lines once more, and
were awed by the power of cross-breeding in corn: the hybrid offspring
of the test crosses are truly magnificent. They’re not only huge and
vigorous, but the crosses with the earliest inbred females are also
really early to tassel and silk. In fact the first of them will be ready
to harvest and taste the first week of August. (In good conscience I
have to confess that they’re this early in part because we grew them on
black plastic, which is our easiest method for everything in the
breeding plot). We’re hopeful that after this season we will have an
early-season and later-season selection for both bi-color and yellow
sweet corn hybrids.
In another of our breeding projects, for squash, we are very
pleased with this year’s material and the number of pollinations we’ve
been able to get with all the good weather we’ve had. The butternuts are
looking excellent so far, and we’re especially pleased with the
bi-color butternuts from Cornell, all of which germinated well (unlike
last year) and then flowered and set fruit just on schedule with
everything else. Last year the mid-sized bi-colors were particularly
slow and late, only flowering after everything else was nearly finished.
I’m not sure whether the difference is due to the greater heat we’ve
had this year or whether the small number of fruit we were able to
finish last year then gave rise to plants that were selected for greater
earliness. Now the question is just whether these lines will be early
enough on a year that doesn’t have the wondrous heat that we’ve had this
For zucchini, we’ve completed the work on a hybrid medium
green zucchini we’ll release next year as “Cha-Ching F1,” and now we’re
working on development of both PMT and spineless lines. We’ve got some
good material in the plot and I’m hopeful these will come right along.
We’re lucky in being able to work with zucchini without the bacterial
diseases that make it difficult to work with further south. We’re also
working on some yellow summer squash material, but in truth even the
commercial hybrids seem so ill-behaved (i.e. spiny and multi-branched)
that I don’t feel particularly excited about that material. Our
preference would be to license glabrous (i.e. spineless) material from
Brent Loy at UNH, whenever that becomes available.
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