Development of Hybrid Corn and the Seed Corn Industry

  • A. Forrest Troyer

This is a history of the development of hybrid corn (Zea maize L.) and of the developing seed corn industry by review of the literature and by the personal testimony of colleagues. I identify, describe, and discuss pertinent background germplasm and provide a sampling of seed corn company histories. Some highlights of seed organizations and seed improvement associations are given. Charles Darwin's views in “The Effects of Cross- and Self-Fertilization in the Vegetable Kingdom” were instrumental in the development of commercial hybrid corn. I trace his hybrid vigor idea through Harvard University, Michigan Agricultural College, University of Illinois, and finally to Connecticut. Charles Darwin's views in “The Variation of Plants and Animals under Domestication” explain why only popular, widely adapted open-pollinated varieties persisted in the background of U.S. hybrid corn. Reid Yellow Dent contributed 56%.of the germplasm in the documented background of current U.S. hybrid corn and other popular varieties, such as Lancaster Sure Crop and Minnesota 13, contributed the other 44%. These widely adapted varieties contributed to widely adapted hybrids. Corn hybrids were first commercially grown in the early 1930s when the annual U.S. corn yields averaged 1,518 kg per ha (24.2 bushels per acre), and corn production averaged 51 million Mg (2 billion bushels). In 2007, the average U.S. corn yield was estimated at 9,474 kg per ha (151.1 bushels per acre), and U.S. corn production was 332.7 million Mg (13.1 billion bushels). These increases were caused by better hybrids, improved cultural practices, and biotechnology. Corn has become the highest tonnage crop worldwide. Seed corn companies have grown larger, better, and fewer over time.


Seed Company Corn Belt Hybrid Corn Seed Corn Corn Breeding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Forrest Troyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Crop SciencesChicago

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