Fresh Corn Breeding and Genetics Program
Department of Agronomy, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Established 1919

Brief history: The vegetable processing industry in UW-Madison dates back to the late 1880s and Wisconsin is one of the major vegetable producing states. Production research on sweet corn at Wisconsin began prior in the early part of the century. In 1919 E.D. Holden began a breeding program focusing on the improvement of open-pollinated cultivars. In 1923, R.A. Brink began a hybrid sweet corn breeding and later passed on responsibility to field corn breeder Professor Norman Neal.  In the 1940’s Professor Bob Andrew became the sweet corn breeder.  In 1984 Bill Tracy joined the project as an assistant professor and sweet corn breeder.  Over the years the breeders have worked closely with Wisconsin’s vegetable growers and processors and the seed industry to improve sweet corn production and quality.  The program has developed germplasm with improved disease resistance, eating quality, and germination.  The sweet corn program has developed numerous inbreds and hybrids, which have been sold commercially and served as germplasm for other breeding programs. 

RA Brink
Norman Neal

Breeding objectives:

1. Developing high sugar inbreds and hybrids with improved germination, pest resistance, flavor, and agronomic performance for Wisconsin.         
2. Developing improved populations for use as breeding pools and OP cultivars.
         a. disease resistance
         b. table quality
         c. cold tolerance.

3. Developing “new” types of sweet corn for niches or specialty uses.
         a. incorporating new morphological types.
         b. new endosperm combinations
        c. savory vegetable corns
        d. colors

Current Research:

  1. Developmental genetics of corn
    1. Pest resistance and agronomic performance
    1. Weed competition
  2. Genetics of cold tolerance.
  3. Introgression of exotic germplasm
  4. Sweet corn domestication
  5. Genetics of endosperm modification
    1. Germination and seed quality
    1. Eating quality