Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brazilian popcorn fields

Regularly people will ask me what is it that I do. When I tell them that I am a plant breeder, I usually get a blank look. When I tell them I am a geneticist at a popcorn company they just look confused, especially when my international trips come up. I go at least once a year to South America - Brazil and Argentina.

This is what I do: I look at the popcorn, that is really it. We have 50 hybrids that we test each year in South America and when we go we look at all the commercial hybrids to see what problems they may have in farmers fields. Then we look at the experimental hybrids to see how they compare for yield, pests, diseases, plant type. Then we talk about them with customers and collaborators to get their opinions about the new hybrids as well as needs in future hybrids.

It is a pretty great job, it's not rocket science, but it never stays the same. There is always a new disease and new problem. Keeping up in yield with the competition is a challenge as well as remembering pedigrees, relationships, and performance of all of the different hybrids and testing material each year.

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