Biotechnology

Corn Yields Boosted 50 Percent by Biotechnologists

Malthusians are never right and never win.

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CornYield50ColdSpringHarbor
Jackson Lab: Cold Spring Harbor

Nature Genetics has published an article with the catchy title, "Signaling from maize organ primordia via FASCIATED EAR3 regulates stem cell proliferation and yield traits," that describes how researchers have bioengineered corn so that yields are boosted by 50 percent. Basically, a team of biologists at Cold Spring Harbor have figured out a way to modulate the molecular brakes that tell ears of corn to stop growing once they reach a certain size. Mutations in the FEA3 receptor eases off the brakes and allows stem cells that grow into kernels of corn to proliferate, but not so much so that they outrun the availability of nutrients, water, and light to sustain their development. This bioengineered change in the FEA3 pathway, according to Cold Spring Harbor, "gave rise to a modest, manageable increase in stem cells, and to ears that were significantly larger than ears in wild-type plants.These ears, the product of maize plants grown from weak alleles of FEA3, had more rows of kernels, and up to 50% higher yield overall than wild-type plants."

The researchers further note that the newly discovered pathway is highly conserved across the plant kingdom, which means that the discovery "holds the prospect of translating into significant increases in yield in all the major staple crops." Just this one gene tweak goes a long way toward fulfilling the USDA's projection of "a 75-percent increase in total production and consumption of major field crops between 2005 and 2050. This increase is larger than the 43-percent increase in global population projected for the same period, reflecting increasing per capita growth in income and the associated increase in consumption of animal products in developing countries."

Malthusians lose again.

Hat tip Richard Rohde.

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  1. YEAH IN YOUR FACE, NATURE

    1. SUCK IT GAIA

      1. I suppose Bailey would support trespassing lawsuits brought by farmers when the pollen from this frankencorn contaminates their crops.

        1. You forgot to add the /sarc tag.

  2. That corn reminds of this book cover

    http://hooverhog.typepad.com/……970b-800wi

  3. “This increase is larger than the 43-percent increase in global population projected for the same period, reflecting increasing per capita growth in income and the associated increase in consumption of animal products in developing countries.”

    But what about the increase in obesity brought on by all the HFCS?

    1. But what about the increase in obesity brought on by all the HFCS?

      … since people are being force-fed sugar.

      1. The ellipsis implies sarcasm about something I take it.

        If it makes you feel better, I don’t discriminate in my disdain for carbs, except perhaps in degree. Potatoes would probably be even worse. But today we’re talking about corn.

        How about they GMO up some seafood for the future, before the ocean gets all fished out.

        1. “How about they GMO up some seafood for the future, before the ocean gets all fished out.”

          “‘Frankenfish on the Menu? FDA Gives Initial Approval” – See more at: http://www.livescience.com/257…..CKGmx.dpuf
          You need to keep up.

          1. You need to keep up.

            Not to mention that you can’t just grow legions of frankenfish on unicorn farts. You’ve got to feed them something.

          2. Good. I’m glad. Yay.

        2. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that you really are this clueless in real life.

        3. Obesity is brought on by running a calorie surplus, not by the composition of your caloric intake.

          1. FUCK YOU! HFCS IS NOT REEL SUGER!11! ONLY CANE SUGAR IS REEL SUGER!

            1. Actually, only maple syrup is real sugar.

              Preferable grade A, dark.

          2. This is the kind of simplistic thinking that led to decades of stupid claims about fat and various forms of diets. This is for all of you.

            People don’t eat to achieve a number, they eat to satisfy their hunger. Differences in diet have an absurd range of effects on people, up to and including death. Of course it includes things like appetite, activity level, and all that follows.

            And no, “ship of fools”, for the second time, I’m not aware that the difference between HSCF and your pet topic of sugar has been settled (something about the effect on the liver of having to break that extra bond as I recall, if anything), I don’t personally think it matters.

            1. *HFCS that is

            2. So basically, you’re not actually saying anything?… except maybe “food affects different people differently, and because it’s a complicated process, we don’t really have all the facts” …?

              That’s a little strange since you started out with:

              ut what about the increase in obesity brought on by all the HFCS?

              As if an increase in HFCS production is automagically (I love this “word”) going to make people fat (instead of, y’know, providing much needed calories for starving people).

              No thinking person believes that an endless intake of sugar and carbs is *good* for you. But the leap to more HFCS is going to kill!!!1! is just too much.

              1. I didn’t like that “B” in “but”.

              2. I’m saying I think high-carb American diets are extremely unhealthy. If this is such a safe thing to say then maybe you’re the one who doesn’t need to be making counter-arguments and flames, while I can be forgiven the occasional fucking wisecrack about it for the sake of comedy.

                I made absolutely no reference to the differences between individuals. Or between sugar and corn syrup for that matter, till you wouldn’t stop posting about it. As for not having all the facts, that’s why we have opinions.

                And as for all the starving people, from what I’ve seen, feeding starving people just leads to exponential growth in the number of starving people. /grumpycatface

                Also by the way, I called you “ship of fools” purely by accident, amusingly.

    2. This increase is larger than the 43-percent increase in global population projected for the same period

      [prog]
      We don’t care about people. Will the increased yield keep up with accelerated production of cars we want to run on gasohol?
      [/prog]

  4. Oh NOES! Is this GMO corn?! GMOs are evil! This will cause cancer!

  5. I ain’t eating that double-headed dildo corn.

    Gimme butter and sugar corn, or give me death.

    (I know that we’re talking about dent corn here, and I’ll probably eat and drink plenty of it)

    1. Looks hard to eat!

  6. Was bullshit used as a fertilizer?

    1. They tried, but it was immediately detected and discarded by democratic voters.

  7. I’m not eating any ear of corn that has a crotch

    1. Mmmm. Buttered crotch of corn.

      1. I call the camel toe!

    2. Warty Corn

  8. Corn is a miracle plant. C4 carbon fixation has only been around for 30 million years or so.

    Naturally, environmentalists hate it.

  9. Whoa! Badass!

    This bioengineered change in the FEA3 pathway, according to Cold Spring Harbor, “gave rise to a modest, manageable increase in stem cells, and to ears that were significantly larger than ears in wild-type plants.These ears, the product of maize plants grown from weak alleles of FEA3, had more rows of kernels, and up to 50% higher yield overall than wild-type plants.”

    Norman Borlaug is rolling over in his grave… to hide the boner you just gave him!

  10. up to 50% higher yield

    That’s marketing talk, like “up to 80% savings”.

    1. Meh. It’s also science jargon. No one ear was more than 1.5X the size of any other ear.

      Considering we’re talking about the unknown results of a predominantly natural phenomenon rather than the known results of a more deterministic one, I’d say it’s acceptable.

      1. I beg to differ. A reference to the maximum says nothing about the average of the higher yield; it merely puts an upper limit on it, which carries considerably less info than the average.

        1. I beg to differ.

          Fair enough. The explicit statement ‘up to 50% higher yield’ and nothing else could be a gimmick. However, given the fact that it’s given right after a statement of ‘significantly higher yields’ (Do p-values really matter if they’re gamed anyway?) and we’re talking about corn, a private (though non-profit) lab, and a product going to market, as opposed to centennial multi-factorial climate models giving fuel to the government ban hammer, I’m willing to cut them a break. It behooves them very little to boast up to 50% greater yields and then actually produce 1% (+/- 1%) greater yields. Especially when, in a handful of years, without any fancy math, a 2nd yr. 4-H member should be able to give you a decent idea of the efficacy of this product/mutation.

          1. OK, I see your point. Maybe I’m a bit over-sensitive to seeing the “up to” claim, because its potential for misuse.

  11. Fun corn fact: there is no such thing as wild maize – because the kernels are wrapped so tightly in the husk, it can’t really reproduce without human intervention. It turns out that corn was created through a sophisticated intentional breeding process by Indians in southern Mexico almost 10,000 years ago from a completely unremarkable grass called teosinte. It’s the original GMO.

    1. So this is all about corn appropriation? Have the GMO’s no shame?!?!?!?!?!?

      1. If the kernels wear tiny sombreros to the fraternity’s annual extravaganza, are they racist?

    2. But how are the UFOs involved?

      1. Once the ancestors of the Maya were done inventing maize, the aliens taught them how to build pyramids. Duh.

        1. Of course, to store the grain.

  12. Increasing yields by means of bioengineering is totally evil. Only Republicans and Galt-adoring libertards support such madness. Bernie will stop mutant corn. Vote for Bernie. VOTE “YES” ON THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT!

  13. I’ll bet those where all men doing the research, and none of them asked for affirmative consent from the corn before they started messing around with its DNA, imposing their standards of desirability on the poor helpless corn. What if the corn is happy being small-kerneled? What if it thinks its pretty darn grrrreat! just the way it is? And conjoined-twin corn like that just ain’t natural, there’s gotta be something wrong with it. Removing the gene that regulates growth in corn and then feeding it to cows I feel certain will produce two-headed calves, and when we in turn eat the beef we’ll start seeing two-headed, four-armed babies in humans. That’s just plain scientific logic. How can you refute science?

    (Also, cultural appropriation! Maize belongs to the Indigenous Peoples.)

    1. I call for a ban on eating transgendered corn in public restrooms!

      1. I’M TRIGGERED.

    2. Corn rapist.

  14. Yeah, but it’s not nachurel!

  15. Can I ask a question – why the hell isn’t this story front page news across the media and is only reported in a niche (with all due respect) political magazine with a presumably sympathetic audience?

    I mean, if I’m reading the story right this is one of the most promising discoveries in a generation. If you’re an environmentalist, the land use savings alone should have you dancing in the street. If you’re a humanitarian, the dent this could mean in ending hunger should be a huge story.

    1. If you’re an environmentalist, the land use savings alone should have you dancing in the street. If you’re a humanitarian, the dent this could mean in ending hunger should be a huge story.

      You don’t understand. It’s not natural. That by itself makes it bad for both the environment and humanity. It doesn’t matter that it means higher crop yields from less land. That just doesn’t matter. Especially since that land is being cultivated by corporations for a profit. True environmentalists and humanitarians understand that we need to be closer to the land. We need to cultivate our own food, and in a natural way. None of these chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and GMO crops. All those things do is enrich the corporations. No, what we need is more family farms, growing sustainable food in an Earth-friendly way. So what if that’s basically the definition of poverty? At least the corporations won’t be making immoral profits.

    2. I’d got with, “Hot off the presses.”

      I don’t doubt the findings but I think the ‘discovery to media hype’ event chain is already a little too short. The people who need to know to get the seeds into the fields and increase yields are already reading this if they weren’t intimately involved with the study to begin with.

      Useful idiots need not be kept in the loop explicitly.

  16. And it doubles as a sex toy!

  17. Looking at the two ears on the right, “You’re gonna need a different sheller”.

    1. Honestly Homple that is the first thought that crossed my mind.
      Some crops like pumpkins for filling are bred to fit through processing machines.

      1. Honestly Homple that is the first thought that crossed my mind.

        Really? My first thought was ‘sheller?’ did you wake up in 1833? Then I thought that there probably are people out there this backwards in their thinking.

        And I remembered to thank God that we’re libertarians and we’ve got orphans to do the hard work for us.

        1. Fuck your “Organic” orphans.
          I have Robotic orphans working for me.
          God Damn Luddite Libertarians !!!!

  18. LOL, sure, I’m really gonna believe this is real, when I hear it from the guy who buys into anthropogenic global warming.

  19. Never right? There are places in the world right now demonstrating Malthusianism

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