Germplasm Enhancement of Maize  

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GEM Project:
GEM Mission
By Laws
GEM Background
GEM Personnel
GEM Cooperators


Genetic uniformity can lead to vulnerability to crop pathogens, insects, and abiotic factors, thereby compromising food security. Breeding with un-adapted, exotic germplasm is done in order to introduce useful genetic diversity for minimizing risks to production, introducing unique traits, or improving trait performance. 

This is a long term process requiring coordinated effort and use of multiple, diverse testing environments to evaluate the materials for useful traits, develop or modify breeding methodologies and procedures, conduct breeding efforts in field nurseries and evaluate some traits via laboratory analyses. 

By reducing genetic vulnerability and providing genetic improvements that increase productivity or utilization for food, feed, bio-energy and other industrial uses, the value of the crop to producers and end-users is enhanced and consumers ultimately benefit. 

GEM Mission:

The mission of the GEM (Germplasm Enhancement of Maize) Project is to effectively increase the diversity of U.S. maize germplasm utilized by producers, global end-users and consumers. The mission will be achieved through a collaborative effort between USDA-ARS, and both public and private research scientists by utilizing exotic, public, and proprietary maize germplasm. The resulting germplasm and associated knowledge, derived via the identification and incorporation of favorable alleles for prioritized traits from exotic sources, is utilized in private and public breeding programs and ultimately contributes to increased genetic diversity of maize grown by producers and improved product performance. In addition, the GEM project provides opportunities for training plant scientists in the enhancement and utilization of un-adapted germplasm.  This contributes to the global sustainability of agricultural production, economic stability and the nutrition and well being of society.

GEM Background:

The GEM project originally utilized the germplasm discoveries of the Latin American Maize Project (LAMP) as source material. Twelve countries participated in the LAMP Project and evaluated 12,000 accessions. Initially, 51 highly productive LAMP accessions from temperate and lowland tropical areas and seven tropical hybrids donated by DeKalb were used by the GEM Project and crossed to elite proprietary germplasm by industry cooperators in 1994.

The project successfully partners industry and public sector researchers to address a wide array of germplasm trait and research needs, and utilizes a wide range of exotic germplasm from all over the world. This includes germplasm provided by international public and private cooperators in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Thailand, and Canada, as well as germplasm from CIMMYT and the original populations identified by the LAMP.  Proprietary germplasm from more than 40 private developers has been used to create approximately 600 breeding crosses that are now part of the GEM Project.

The GEM project was funded by the federal government with an initial $500,000 in 1995. The USDA-ARS GEM Project is currently funded with $1,300,000 by the federal government and has 26 private cooperators, 21 public cooperators, one non-government organization, 12 international private cooperators, and 4 international public cooperators in year 2010. The Ames, IA component focuses on 25% exotic germplasm while the Raleigh, NC component focuses on 50% exotic germplasm. The Ames, IA GEM project is coordinated by Dr. Dave Peters, USDA-ARS. The Raleigh, NC GEM project is coordinated by Dr. Matt Krakowsky and collaboratively by NC Stateís Dr. Major Goodman. A Technical Steering Group (TSG) provides expertise and a forum for discussion and guidance on issues of significance to maize genetic research. The TSG membership is elected at the annual GEM Cooperators meeting.

Anticipated Products:

The products of the GEM Project include new sources of germplasm that are available to all researchers free of charge through the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station (NCRPIS). Released germplasm is expected to have immediate utility for incorporation into corn breeding programs by the commercial and public sectors. Commercial products are expected to be derived from the progeny of GEM germplasm crossed to adapted lines. New research information will be generated and shared with the scientific community, and includes (i) characterization of germplasm for agronomic performance and traits, (ii) breeding methodology for enhancement of un-adapted (exotic) germplasm, and (iii) germplasm with unique value-added traits (VATís) for further research applications, e.g. genomics research. Greater usage of released germplasm will ultimately broaden the germplasm base of maize. The GEM program may serve as a future model for germplasm enhancement of other crop species based on the degree of success achieved.


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GEM USDA-ARS Personnel:

GEM Personnel in the Midwest Area: The following people manage GEM project, employed by the United States Department of Agriculture and stationed at Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

David Peters - GEM coordinator

Candice Gardner - Research Leader and Fund holder

GEM Yield Trial Manage - Vacant

Mike Peters - GEM Nursery Manager

Mack Shen - GEM Data Manager

GEM Personnel in the Southeast Area: There is a Southeastern GEM program component involving United State Department of Agriculture employees stationed at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.

USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit

Matt Krakowsky - Southeast GEM Coordinator, joined the Plant Science Research Unit at NC State in September, 2007.

            Dale Dowden - Agricultural Research Technician

            David Marshall - Research Leader and Fund holder.

NC State University

            Major Goodman, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor ('')

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GEM Technical Steering Group (TSG):

TSG members are elected during the annual meeting in Chicago; are responsible for establishing GEM policies; research protocols and methods; GEM budget; initiating research contacts for various public research efforts comprised of GEM materials; and providing guidance the Coordinator and Cooperators in technical matters.

Chairman: Walter Trevisan, Retired Seed Industry Maize Breeder (Dekalb/Cargill/Monsanto/WEMA, '')

From Private Industry:

1. Azzeddine Douiyssi, Syngenta Seeds., Inc. ('')

2. Andrew Hopkins, Corteva Agriscience ('')

3. Tony Maves, Becks Superior Hybrids, Inc. ('')

4. Clint Turnbull, Bayer Crop Science ('')

5. David Willmot, AgReliant Genetics ('')

From Public Institutions:

1. Spencer Smith, USDA-ARS, Mississippi State, MS ('Spencer.Smith@ARS.USDA.GOV')

2. Jianming Yu, Iowa State University, Ames, IA (')

ex officio Members:

1. David Peters, USDA-ARS, NCRPIS, Ames, IA (

2. Peter Bretting, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, MD ('')

3. Sherry Flint-Garcia, USDA-ARS, PGRU, Columbia, MO ('')

4. Candice Gardner, USDA-ARS, NCRPIS, Ames, IA ('')

5. Matt Krakowsky, USDA-ARS, PSRU, Raleigh, NC ('')

6. David Marshall, USDA-ARS, PSRU, Raleigh, NC ('')

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