Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2017
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2019
Grant Year
Project Director
Krone, T.
Recipient Organization
3051 104TH ST STE B
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
The seed industry generates tremendous value from hybrid crops relative to varietal or self-pollinated crops. For example, while corn (a hybrid crop) and soybeans (a self-pollinated crop) were planted on approximately the same land area in the U.S. in 2017, the total value of the corn hybrid seed industry was greater than 4x the value of the soybean seed industry. However, producing hybrid seed is expensive relative to self or open-pollinated crops. In some crops, such as soybeans and wheat, the biology of the plant is prohibitive to the economical production of hybrid seed, thus disabling the realization of the benefits of hybridity in these crops. Enabling a crop such as wheat to be produced as a hybrid would have an annual value exceeding several billion dollars.This project will develop methods to scale the preservation and storage of maize pollen and to enable on-demand use of the pollen. On-demand use of maize pollen in seed production will improve and enable hybrid seed production, thus improving agricultural productivity and food availability.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Seed production methods have not changed since the advent of hybrid maize in the 1920s. Novel cost effective methods are needed to decrease the cost of goods and increase seed yield, and which can be applied to enable hybridity in other crops.In general, the goal of this project is to scale the preservation and storage of maize pollen to the extent that it would be cost-effective to utilize pollen on-demand in hybrid seed production. This would decrease the cost of hybrid seed production and increase productivity. Spectifically, the Objectives of our Phase II demonstration project are to achieve the following:1. Scale up a cost-effective pollen preservation and storage protocol for use under typical commercial maize parent seed and hybrid seed production (target: 1-4 acres application)2. Apply scaled-up protocols to multiple maize inbreds varying in pollen production under typical parent seed and hybrid seed production conditions (target: 10 commercial inbreds varying in 'maleness', i.e. suitability for hybrid seed production).
Project Methods
The major work focus for this project is divided into three specific categories concomitant with the technical objectives. Pollen conditioning protocols developed in Phase I will be scaled and adjusted to maintain viability of large amounts of pollen from the moment of collection thru transport to the storage facility (Technical Objective 1) followed by scaling and optimization of storage parameters developed in Phase I(Technical Objective 2). Lastly, experiments will be conducted to determine optimized procedures for large scale handling of stored pollen during transport for field application. An array of germplasm will be utilized in the project, representing the genetic diversity present in U.S. germplasm. Field and greenhouse facilities are being leased that will be utilized to grow the experimental material. Regular plantings will occur over the course of the project to enable a constant supply of fresh pollen (male inflorescence) and fertile silks (female inflorescence). State-of-the-art physiological assays and procedures will be employed to determine the best methods for industrial scale handling and storage of maize pollen.

Progress 09/01/17 to 08/31/18

Target Audience:AAT's primary audience are U.S. corn seed companies. We have had contact regarding our technology with almost every major seed company, including those with international operations. Actual results have been reported to 5 companies under confidentiality agreements. Significant interest has been expressed and we had 3 pilot customers this summer to get a first look at the technology. Changes/Problems:There have been no major changes to the work-plan and objectives. There have been minor changes, such as altering the "packet" size for pollen scaling. For example, we anticipated 100ml packets of pollen for preservation, but we actually preserved 500 ml packets of pollen in our final protocol in the summer 2018 demonstrations. Other similar modification were enacted, but the major course of the project is as dictated in the proposal. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?This work has provided tremendous training to both our own employees and also the employees of our customers in protocols for scaled pollen preservation and handling. The ultimate goal is to transfer the tech to the seed companies and earn revenue via technology licensing. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Reports have been communicated in person via ppt persentations to our pilot customers as well as potential new customers for 2019. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Based on 2018 results, we have identified two major technical barriers to reaching the true potential of our technology, which will be our focus over the next reporting period. We will use a similar model with pilot customers in 2019 to ultimately lead to full commercialization in 2020. 1. Improving the targeting of the pollen to the female (silks) 2. Improving the health of the preserved pollen in scaled up protocols compared to small scale protocols. In addition there are several other straight-forward improvements to improve the cost-effectiveness of our technology. These will also be a focus, but will consume a minor portion of the budget.

What was accomplished under these goals? We have made progress on both objectors for Phase II: 1. We have scaled and proven cost-effective pollen preservation methods that are applicable for maize seed production fields of 10 acres or larger. We applied the method to several fields in excess of 100 acres. This was done with our three pilot customers. 2. We applied our scaled up products to about 15 different seed production scenarios, involving at least 10 different commercial inbreds varying in male quality characteristics.


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