SBIR Phase I: Feasibility Study for Developing Low Nitrogen Corn

Period of Performance: 01/01/2007 - 12/31/2007


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

8 PILTON PLACE, Suite 202
Durham, NC 27705
Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I research will evaluate feasibility for conferring low nitrogen tolerance into corn using a bridging technology based on a wild relative of corn. Eastern gamagrass, a wild relative of corn, has special adaptations for low nutrient soils. By crossing gamagrass with another corn relative, Sun Dance Genetics developed a genetic bridge that overcomes the sterility barrier between corn and gamagrass and permits movement of new genes into corn using conventional plant breeding methods. Approximately 15 million tons of fertilizer are applied annually to corn in the United States. Fertilizer runoff from corn has seriously impacted watersheds and contributes to growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Sun Dance Genetics' platform technology for developing high-yielding corn under low nitrogen will reduce fertilizer requirements. We will collect data on yield and nitrogen use efficiency of lines grown at 100 lb/N/ac, 200lb/N/ac, and organically in a replicated, randomized plot field test. We will statistically evaluate performance of different genotypes under the three treatments, and employ DNA fingerprinting to identify genetic loci associated with nitrogen use efficiency. Phase I will provide essential data to assess feasibility for developing low-N corn, and identify pedigrees that can be fast-tracked for advanced development in a Phase II recurrent selection, marker-assisted breeding program. The broader impact will be a positive effect on the environment and human health benefits from reduced fertilizer runoff into the Mississippi River watershed, and from lower nitrous oxide emissions. Savings in fertilizer costs will also improve American corn growers competitiveness without hurting the environment.