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Xenia Effect in corn?

 
Posts: 28
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I did a experimental crop of corn this year with 4 different heirloom varieties. 3 soft flour types... Hopi Blue corn, Hopi Pink corn and Hopi turquoise. And 1 dent type... Oaxacan Green.

I'm a little confused about how the different pollen from different varieties would affect the colors of the kernels. SO far I had 2 ears I noticed bug damage so i picked off early. I was a little surprised to find yellow corn kernels. I don't totally understand the way pollen changes the color of the fertilized kernel but some are strange with marbling and some have a beautiful iridescence. I can't wait to see some of the better ears once they are ready, but i'm scratching my head as to which kernels to save for next years crop.

Heres a pic of the first 2 ears with insect damage...
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pollinator
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Hopefully others can chime in regarding the generalities of maize color genetic variation.  The marbeling/variegated effects within the kernals and in some cases across the cob, can be due to
'mobile DNA'.....transposons that can move from one site in the genome to another site, causing changes in gene expression.   The discovery of transposons is one of the factors that gained Barbara McClintock the Noble Prize. -- https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/barbara-mcclintock-and-the-discovery-of-jumping-34083
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Did they all bloom at the same time? Sometimes because of differing dates to maturity you have to stagger plantings for the genetic material to all be there, mixing with one another. Looks like some really interesting results! Corn is such a neat, visual example of genetics at play
 
Fish Farley
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No they didn't all bloom at exactly the same. But it was roughly the same time frame. I mixed the seeds of the 4 varieties and then planted several seeds into each whole, thinning them down to about 3 plants per hole. So I really don't have an idea which variety is which until I open them up to see. I didn't de-tassle any of the plants but i did try to manually spread the pollen around to different silks. Yields seem low, but I am not supplementing the rain water or adding any fertilizer. I'm basically testing them to see what happens under tough conditions.

While I am finding these early results to be very interesting, It's confusing to wrap my head around as to what will the next generation's results will be. I guess all I can do is select the best ears from the best plants and then select the best kernels from those. I think it's strange there are white and yellow kernels coming out of blue, green, pink and turqoiuse plants. I figured there would be some blue/green/purple action. Besides the color traits there are also the dent or flour type of kernel that can be passed on. I see both types on one ear.
 
Fish Farley
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Here's some pictures of the corn earlier in the season. Different colored tassels, manual pest control, anasazi beans climbing up corn.
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steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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There are 4 different areas of a corn kernel that might contribute to the final color of each kernel. They might combine together, or a more outward layer might mask a more inward layer.

1- The pericarp is the outermost layer. It is maternal tissue only, so there is no xenia effect. There are no guarantees either way that it will be inherited by the offspring or not. A dark pericarp often obscures underlying layers. Colors when present are typically reds, browns.

2- The aleurone is the next deepest layer. It is a xenia layer, therefore colors may be influenced by the pollen donor. Colorless/transparent is the most recessive. Colored kernels on white cobs may be due to the pollen donor.  The pollen donor might only contribute an epistatic gene that activates a color gene pathway that is already present in the mother, but not visible. Colors are typically reds, purples, blues. There is a rare South American type that is pastel yellow.

3- The endosperm is a triploid layer with two gene sets from the mother, and one from the father. It is also a xenia layer. Colors are typically white, yellow, orange.

4- Sap color is typically colorless, but purple variants exist. When present, they stain all other layers in the kernel often obscuring any other kernel coloration. Maternal only. No xenia effect.
 
Fish Farley
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Thanks for the detailed post, I'll have to read over that a few times to learn the different layers.

I picked off an ear this morning that is looking a little more like I expected. It's more of a blend of the different colors....
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Fish Farley
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I have planted the next generation of corn, the seeds were picked from these 6 ears. I took only the best seeds from the middle of the ears and none of the white or yellow kernels.
Last year I planted about 75 of the original hopi blue, pink, turquoise and Oaxacan green seeds. This year I'm planting about 3x as many. I can't wait to see what colors pop up this time.


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Fish Farley
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All the corn germinated with good vigor. Been making delicious cornbread with last year's blue and purple Hopi corn.

I took a good luck at the young corn plants today and noticed a couple of standouts with purple leaves and 1 with a pink stripe along the leaf. Possibly brought on by recent cold temps at night and bright sunny days, but only about 4 out of 100+ are showing color.
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Fish Farley
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zzzzzzzzzz
corn grows fast eh?
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Fish Farley
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First ears of the year are showing lots of variation. The purple dent hybrid is looking pretty cool with some green in the background.
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Fish Farley
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Uno mas...
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Fish Farley
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I didn’t plant 1 yellow or white kernel this year. Only red, green, blue, pink, purple and orange. But it seems that yellow and white are coming through and showing on the ears.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Pretty colors.

The green color is due to blue coloration over yellow endosperm. Therefore, all of the green kernels that were planted were also yellow kernels.

I also see a lot of kernels in the photograph of the planting seeds that are red coloration over yellow endosperm. Which gives yellow kernels this year.

 
Fish Farley
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Pretty colors.

The green color is due to blue coloration over yellow endosperm. Therefore, all of the green kernels that were planted were also yellow kernels.

I also see a lot of kernels in the photograph of the planting seeds that are red coloration over yellow endosperm. Which gives yellow kernels this year.



Thanks Joseph, that makes sense.
I did get one really nice ear that is all red and dark red. It seems the red ears don’t have any of the other colors.
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Fish Farley
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Couple more...
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Joseph Lofthouse
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The overall red coloration is due to pericarp color, which is the outermost layer, and is maternal only. It affects every kernel equally.  

Underneath the red, may be blue/white aleurone and/or white/yellow endosperm which changes the overall hue of individual kernels.
 
Fish Farley
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this one had a real rainbow of colors...
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Fish Farley
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I’m on the 3rd year of this corn project and planted a lot more this year. Here are the first 2 ears I harvested yesterday.

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Fish Farley
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Here’s some growing photos.
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Fish Farley
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I’m getting a range of nearly all white to nearly all dark purple and all mixtures in between.
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Fish Farley
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This season is all wrapped up. I over planted and we had a very wet season. I don’t think the ears reached their full potential, but there was still a large number of ears harvested and the diversity in colors is still astonishing.
There are several ears that have the glass gem quality in flour kernels and I think that’s been an exciting trait coming out of the mixed genetics.
I mainly selected away from dent kernels and that seemed to be successful.
Steering the colors hasn’t been so easy. I’m still absorbing the information about genetics and applying it to this population. I’d like to mainly get rid of the yellow and white kernels and focus on the black/purple/blue/red/pink spectrum of colors. Any advice?
Originally diversity was the goal of this project and I believe that has been successful.

1 option for the next season will be to select aggressively for the colors I want in the next generation and remove any seeds that will produce white or yellow kernels.
2nd option would be to increase diversity even more by reintroducing the original seed lines and include each successive generation of seeds that I’ve saved for the last couple years. That would really mix things up. It would be 3- f1,f2,f3 hybrid generations mixed back together with the parent lines.

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Fish Farley
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The red ears were all very small this time. The glass flour kernels with mixed colors are my favorite.
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Fish Farley
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Some more…
I also had a wide variation in plant sizes. The ones similar to the oaxacan green were the tallest and most robust. They also made the heaviest feeling ears.
I’d like to grow the next crop in a larger open field setting with better sun and spacing between plants. I planted up to ten seeds in most of the holes.
I also did a test this time and these seeds amazingly germinated at a depth of 8”. I’m going to plant up to 10-12” next time and see if that helps with better rooting and plant stability. I had a lot fall over from the heavy rains and winds.
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