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indian corn

Ed Coe ed at teosinte.agron.missouri.edu
Mon Nov 9 11:10:05 EST 1998

Hi, Irv. I'm forwarding your inquiry to the maize net, as some others may want
to respond beyond my comments.

In answer to your direct question, it would be expected that various results
will be found from planting the various kernel colors.  Corn (maize)
pollinates freely among different plants, so mixtures of progeny types are
expected from a mixed field.  Standard farm-planted corn, however, is uniform
in color, being all yellow or all white, and does not have these colors.

'Indian corn' nowadays refers to showy and colorful corn, without necessarily
referring to corn with properties maintained by American Indians in the past.
Showy ears of corn will often have multicolored seeds on the same ears,
because genetic factors controlling colors (tints and intensitities) are
segregating.  In other words, there is visible diversity in the material, and
persons growing these season after season for market will deliberately select
for pleasing mixed colors, or will make crosses between differing populations
with diverse colors. In recent years, commercial breeding has produced more
predictable strains (inbreds, hybrids, or populations), especially of the tiny
kernel types.  The type called "variegated" in exact usage refers to the
striped-kernel trait, which is showing mutations from colorless to red in the
overlying pericarp tissue, i.e., the hull.  In this case, when a mutation to
red is incorporated into a gamete the resulting ear is solid red.

The genetics of these colors in maize is perhaps as intensely studied as any
other trait in any plant.  For more exploration, see the phenotypes identified
in MaizeDB, associated with a1, a2, b1, bz1, bz2, c1, c2, in1, p1, pl1, and r1
loci, among others.  I hope this is some helpful information in response to
your question.

Ed Coe

> Irv Townsend wrote:
> Please pardon the simplicity of this question.  Why is
> Indian corn so variegated?  Does it continue to maintain
> the kernel variation if the annual seed stock is used to
> plant for the next year?  Or, does it revert to a solid
> color kernel.
> thanks for your help,
> Irv Townsend

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