A prestigious academic journal called Science is featuring some Iowa State University research as its latest “cover” story. Patrick Schnable, an I.S.U. agronomy professor, is lead author of research which identifies some of the basic characteristics of “maize” or corn.

“This is a very exciting milestone for me as a scientist,” Schnable says. “But for me as a citizen and for all the other citizens out there, this is also an important milestone.”

Schnable and his research team have discovered the genetic make-up or “genome sequence” of corn is nearly as large as the human genome — and more complex. “Corn is a very important crop in Iowa, in the United States and around the world. Yields have been going up through the very heroic efforts of plant breeders over the last 70 and 80 years, but it becomes harder and harder for them to continue to increase yields,” Schnable says. “…The maize genome sequence provides tools for plant breeders to become more efficient at generating the next generation of hybrids.”

The I.S.U. reseachers submitted their manuscript to the editors of the journal “Science” and the work was sent to other scientists who reviewed it for accuracy and significance. It passed that hurdle, and Schnable says the editors at “Science” must have decided the work at I.S.U. had great significance and potential impact.

“It certainly gives prominence to this and I hope will lead to funding to continue to decipher how the corn plant works so that we can ultimately reengineer it to better suit our needs,” he says. “For example, farmers use a lot of nitrogen fertilizer as an input to produce the high yields that we need. This is an expensive input and it’s also important that the nitrogen get used byhe crop and not end up in the environment, so the genome sequence will provide clues to develop maize lines, corn lines that have better nitrogen use efficiency.”

An on-line academic journal called the Public Library of Science is publishing some of the I.S.U. data, too. The issue of “Science” that highlights the Iowa State research has a picture of an ear of corn on the cover.

See the cover here:www.sciencemag.org/content/vol326/issue5956/cover.dtl