Flooded out

It’s official. I won’t be able to plant any maize this year. My field seemed to be be ok at first, but now the flooding has spread. We can’t even get to the field because the road is flooded as well. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we waited to plant – if we had rushed, all of the seeds would have drowned. This image of what used to be a cornfield and is now a lake was taken by me on Thursday at about 9:30am. For more, see my Facebook album (no login required).
The field might dry out next week, but it’s really too late to plant because we’re almost past the summer solstice. The maize seedlings need to experience lengthening of days before shortening of days or they don’t grow properly. So, plan B is the greenhouse, where I can control day length with lamps.
I’ve narrowed down my experiments to one: maize hemoglobin. Hopefully I’ll get enough grain to do some iron bioavailability experiments. Here I am posing with my entire “cornfield” for 2008, planted on Friday. My big experiment using GFP as a selectable marker will just have to wait until next year. Hopefully it won’t delay my degree too much.
I’ve planted 18 seeds each from 13 transgenic events which I will test for presence of the transgene (cisgene, actually) via PCR at the second leaf stage. Hopefully, I’ll get 6 positive plants from each event. I’ll transfer these to the big black pots you see in the back, and will cross 2 of each event to 3 inbreds – Mo17, B73, and B101. Once I have grain, I’ll be able to see if the gene of interest has the intended effect no matter what the event and genetic background are. I’ll also look to see if the transgene has any effect on normal seed storage proteins.
It’s funny (and frustrating); a friend offered his mother’s farmland as a dry place to plant, but I’ve gotta stick to regulation. All planting locations and procedures must be approved in advance for transgenic corn that has not yet been deregulated, regardless of what it is. I had to say no thank you to my friend, even though I know how to contain 99% of the pollen and GFP is GRAS anyway.
Incidentally, I recently found the List for Field Test Releases in the US for regulated genetically modified plants, which of course includes all of the plants I’m working on. I had no idea that this list existed, and found it entirely by accident when I was looking for the molecular weight of maize hemoglobin.

Written by Anastasia Bodnar

Anastasia Bodnar is a science communicator and science policy expert with a PhD in plant genetics and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Anastasia has had various risk analysis roles in US government and military service. She serves as BFI's Director of Policy and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog.

5 comments

  1. This heavy midwestern weather seems to be hitting a lot of places. First Minnesota and Wisconsin got hit hard last week and a dam broke 1.5 hours North of here. Then Your state (and fields, sorry!) got flooded, and now I hear that Champaign-Urbana in Illinois got flooded badly too. I wonder if we could move some of this rain to California – they could use it with all their fires.

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