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Corn Breeding: Lessons From the Past

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Races of Corn

Types of corn are classified into races. Over 100 distinct races of corn have been described. However, when Europeans started to settle along the Atlantic Coast of North America, two races of corn pre-dominated in this region – the Northern Flints and the Southern Dents. Longfellow is a typical variety of the Northern Flint race and Gourdseed is a typical variety of the Southern Dent race (Figures 4a and 4b).

Fig. 4a: Northern Flint (Longfellow, left) and Southern Dent (Gourdseed, right) plants (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2004)

Fig. 4b: Northern Flint (Longfellow, top) and Southern Dent (Gourdseed, bottom) ears (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2004)
Northern Flints

Plant characteristics:
  • moderately short plant height
  • moderately early maturity
  • slender stalks
  • tillers often present
Ear characteristics:
  • usually 8 kernel rows
  • broad, shallow flinty kernels
  • white cobs
  • often multiple ears per stalk
Southern Dents

Plant characteristics:
  • moderately tall plant height
  • moderately late maturity
  • thick stalks
  • usually no tillers
Ear characteristics:
  • 16 to 30 kernel rows
  • kernels are deeper than broad, soft, and extremely dented at maturity
  • red cobs
  • usually one ear per stalk

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