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Corn Breeding: Lessons From the Past

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Corn Shows, A Social Phenomenon

Corn shows were largely a social phenomenon that became popular in the U.S. Corn Belt beginning about 1900. In these shows, which were held at county and state fairs in the fall, a variety would be judged based on the appearance of a 10-ear sample. Uniform appearance of both ears and kernels reigned supreme. Thus, selection for uniformity became of paramount importance to many farmers from 1900 to 1920.

Some evidence suggests that this selection for uniformity actually caused grain yield potential to decline in open-pollinated varieties. But the prestige of the corn shows was so great, that few of the judges—many of whom were trained at reputable agricultural colleges—ever thought of testing the best of the show corns against similar open-pollinated varieties that were more variable.

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