With a B.S. degree in Botany from Iowa State I was lucky to teach biology in Sarawak as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1963 and 1964. Probably like all teachers, I soon discovered how little I knew about my subjects. Among the many benefits of that job was the short term. It was assumed that one would leave, and for me that meant grad school and a chance to learn more about plants and fungi. After more studies in Botany and Mycology I took a job with a seed corn company in which studies of plants and fungi was forced to face the realities of corn grown in many environments and considered as a crop instead of individual plants. I was hired because of the corn industry concerns that their crop’s vulnerability to disease had been exposed with race T of southern corn leaf blight in 1970. I, nor the seed company, had real clear ideas of what a plant pathologist should do in a company breeding corn seed varieties. I had a lot to learn.
After southern corn leaf blight danger subsided, corn breeders advised me that their toughest problem was obtaining resistance to stalk rot. So I was a guy with an interest in biology of plants faced with a complex problem. Why does stalk rot occur in one plant but not the next? Single cross hybrid plants are, at least theoretically, genetically identical. The fungi accused of causing stalk rot are ubiquitous and surely readily available to attach each plant. So, why this plant and not the next?
About Corn Journal
The purpose of this blog is to share perspectives of the biology of corn, its seed and diseases in a mix of technical and not so technical terms with all who are interested in this major crop. With more technical references to any of the topics easily available on the web with a search of key words, the blog will rarely cite references but will attempt to be accurate. Comments are welcome but will be screened before publishing. Comments and questions directed to the author by emails are encouraged.