Creating Corn to Survive the Cold Spells

Though it is so prominent nation- and worldwide, corn is actually a tropical crop. As demand for food grows with a growing population, new efforts are in the works to increase the cold tolerance of this staple crop.

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Boyce Thompson Institute President David Stern and grad student Coralie Salesse with maize (CORN) in BTI greenhouse.
Jason Koski / CALS

Former research found that the enzyme Rubisco, critical for turning carbon dioxide into sugar, decreases when plants are exposed to cold weather. Therefore, David Stern with the Boyce Thompson Institute, a research center housed on Cornell’s campus, and a team of researchers tested the idea that increased Rubisco content in corn could lead to more vigorous plants.

Their hypothesis proved true, as their engineered corn produced taller plants with larger ears after being exposed to cold temperatures. 

Although they had success with the new corn variety, Stern emphasized that it is not yet ready to be used on a widespread scale. He also sees potential for the same methods to be used to increase the cold-hardiness of crops like sugarcane and sorghum. 

Learn more about efforts in creating corn able to thrive in colder conditions in this CALS online news piece.

Kelsie Raucher

Kelsie is from southwest Missouri and grew up on a 150-acre farm helping her family buy and sell horses and cattle. She credits FFA for finding her passion for agriculture and food issues and desiring a career as an “agvocate.” Since coming to Cornell, she has gained interest in local production, global food issues, and environmental impacts of and on agriculture. She joined the Cornell Small Farms Program in May of 2018 and is excited to gain experience to complement coursework in the Agricultural Sciences major and Communication major.