NECC29: Corn Improvement Conference
(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)
NECC29: Corn Improvement Conference
Duration: 10/01/2023 to 09/30/2028
Statement of Issues and Justification
The Corn Improvement Conference (formerly Northeastern Corn Improvement Conference or NECIC) facilitates information sharing and research collaboration on what is arguably the most important agricultural crop in the northeastern U.S. and beyond. Stakeholders that benefit from the Corn Improvement Conference include dairy and livestock producers (the largest agricultural enterprise in several major states and a business that continues to grow), corn grain producers who have increased their acreage for both traditional grain markets and ethanol production facilities, and a rapidly growing group of both “non-GMO” and organic grain and dairy producers. All of these groups need regionally appropriate germplasm testing and pest management information that is tailored for the changing climate conditions experienced during the crop cycle in the US and Canada and in expanding corn production areas. Results from agronomic research help to keep abreast of the latest technological developments and production issues, and knowledge about the realities of corn producers across the region and beyond are made apparent to and serve to guide the efforts of cutting-edge researchers.
NECIC has met annually since 1945, with the sole exception of 1950 when researchers were regrouping in the wake of World War II and one year during the COVID pandemic. Group interaction is focused primarily on this event, held close to February of each year and hosted by one of the participants. The annual meeting provides a crucial forum for networking among all the key players in corn production in the northeastern US and eastern Canada. Regionality has been expanding in recent years (since 2000s) because issues in other parts of the US and Canada mirror those of the Northeastern region, with participants joining from several central US states and Canadian provinces. Meeting participants include public sector corn researchers and students from the State Agricultural Experiment Stations and federal research programs in the northeastern U.S., and from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in eastern Canada, together with private sector scientists who have an interest in corn improvement in these regions. Plant breeders and geneticists have historically constituted the majority of the group, but it has expanded to agronomists, plant pathologists, seed scientists, crop physiologists, entomologists, and others with an interest in corn improvement. About 40 to 50 people attend each meeting.
Active participation of the private sector is a unique aspect of CIC. Public and private sector scientists have alternately served as chair of the organization, ensuring that the program is relevant to both and serving to strengthen the ties between state and industry scientists. Private sector scientists from the group have strongly encouraged support of public sector corn improvement research at the state and federal levels through letters and lobbying efforts. Such support would be much less likely without the types of public-private sector connections facilitated by CIC.
Annual CIC meetings have provided a forum for sharing and discussing research results related to corn improvement and for consideration of issues (e.g., policy, climate change) affecting corn research in the corn producing regions of the U.S. , Canada, and beyond. Scientific papers presented by participants allow all to keep abreast of others' research topics and results. State and industry reports provide information on emerging trends in corn production and the seed industry, and on corn improvement concerns in the region. Through this shared awareness and interest, collaborative research has been pursued when appropriate as illustrated by the following examples:
- The resurgence in the importance of northern leaf blight and the earlier emergence and northward migration of gray leaf spot as a serious corn pathogen in the eastern U.S. have both prompted collaborative efforts among corn breeders in this group to screen germplasm for resistance. Pathologists have collectively assessed recent recommendations for preventative fungicide sprays on corn.
- Evaluation of corn germplasm for resistance to multiple diseases of importance in the northeast, being conducted by Agriculture Canada's corn breeder in Ottawa, has included germplasm from Cornell University's breeding program. Graduate students have done portions of their research at other institutions (e.g., field evaluations, specialized laboratory research) and have had access to others' genetic materials.
- Breeders in the group exchange germplasm and participate in joint testing efforts.
- Agronomists from this group’s affiliated institutions collaborated with private industry to evaluate the performance and feed quality characteristics of corn hybrids with stacked genetically engineered traits.
Agronomists have collaborated to identify novel production research questions, identify stress responses and yield impacts, and summarize current knowledge through peer-reviewed review papers.
1. Hold an annual meeting where agronomists, corn breeders, geneticists, pathologists, physiologists, and entomologists from the public and private sectors can exchange their current research results and explore new opportunities.
2. Monitor and share information about the spread of issues of regional concern to US and Canada and conduct coordinated research on their management.
Comments: (a) Existing and emerging diseases, like tar spot, and management options. (b) Herbicide resistant weed management. (c) Data-driven information regarding use of corn foliar fungicides as plant health enhancers when diseases are not present. (d) Insect and nematode damage and management options. (e) Development of genetic materials and management strategies to reduce ear rots in corn and associated mycotoxin contamination of grain in the region.
3. Conduct multi-state research and share information about corn management.
Comments: (a) Assessment of interactions of hybrids and management practices such as row spacing and plant population. (b) Development of models to predict nutrient needs for corn and reduce N and P inputs to improve water quality. (c) Seed sources and management for expanding “non-GMO”, silage, and organic production sectors. (d) Investigate corn responses to abiotic stresses increasing in frequency due to climate change. (e) Evaluation of novel production inputs (i.e., biologicals) on corn growth, yield, and soil parameters.
4. Exchange corn germplasm among breeders in the region for evaluation and breeding purposes.
5. Provide graduate students with research and professional development opportunities.
6. Continue to increase the already-robust public and private sector participation in CIC.
Procedures and Activities
A two-day annual meeting is held (generally in mid-February) at a location determined by the incoming Chair of the group. This meeting includes research presentations by regular members (public and private) and graduate students, often offering them one of the first opportunities to make an oral presentation in front of their scientific peers. Reports about corn production are given by state, provincial, and industry members during the business meeting. All presentations and reports are assembled into an annual proceedings volume.
Expected Outcomes and Impacts
- Exchange of ideas and information/data among the region's corn workers.
- The region's corn workers keep abreast of emerging production issues regionally, nationally, and internationally.
- Exchange of germplasm to contribute to regional breeding efforts.
- Region-specific research results that provide corn growers with guidance on crop and pest management.
- Professional development of graduate students.
Projected ParticipationView Appendix E: Participation
All scientific presentations and reports from both public and private sector participants are summarized in an annual proceedings volume that is made available to participants and other interested parties.
The CIC has two officers, Chair and Secretary/Chair-elect. At each annual conference, the Chair convenes a business meeting. The Chair's primary responsibilities are to organize the annual conference and business meeting and coordinate publication of the proceedings. The Secretary takes the minutes and handles any routine correspondence. At the end of the meeting, the Secretary assumes the position of Chair and a new Secretary/Chair-elect is elected for the following year. Both public and private sector participants are encouraged to serve in these capacities, in order to continue the strong tradition of involvement from both of these groups. Administrative guidance is provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.