History of Maize-Breeding


    IN a recent lecture given at the Michigan State College, Mr. Henry A. Wallace, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, traced the history of maize or corn breeding and pointed out that up to 1890 the farmers of the corn-belt had not been superior to their Indian predecessors as corn breeders, the chief improvement having been in substituting a later type of maize for the earlier ones grown by the Indians (Spragg Memorial Lectures on Plant Breeding. Eighth Annual Lecture: “Corn Breeding Experience and its probable eventual Effect on the Technique of Livestock Breeding”. By Henry A. Wallace. Pp. 6. East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State College). The application of the genetic methods of Shull and East, that is, inbreeding of strains followed by crossbreeding of particular types, has since greatly increased the yield. In 1938, probably at least fifteen million acres will be planted, yielding 100 million bushels more than if ordinary open-pollinated types were used. It is suggested that similar methods applied to animal breeding (that is, homozygosis followed by controlled heterosis), first to egg production in fowls, then to swine, sheep, dairy cows and finally to beef cattle can produce similar results, and the methods of swine breeding in Denmark are cited. Mr. Wallace concludes that in mankind compulsory sterilization and selection of types under a dictatorship will not bring about the desired eugenic improvement in the human race. A standardized preconception of the perfect man, after the Nazi ideal of an Aryan 'race', is a false eugenic idea which will lead, in the long run, to the failure of eugenic progress.

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    History of Maize-Breeding. Nature 142, 325–326 (1938). https://doi.org/10.1038/142325d0

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