Curator: Jay Bost, GoFarm Hawai’i Chef: Ray German, Hawaii Masa
Zea mays, revered throughout its native range and now one of the most widely grown crops in the world, has been selected by humans to present a wide diversity of forms. The change in a single (or few genes) alters corn to produce ears that are floury, dented, waxy, sweet, or pop. Likewise simple gene changes produce white, yellow, red, purple and blended kernel colors.
Highlighted are some of the breeding work carried out by James Brewbaker who actively selected corn for disease resistance in Waimanalo for around 50 years. The breeding populations here have the gene known as brittle-1 which interrupts the formation of starch from the sugars in the kernels - giving us a sweet corn. Dr Brewbaker’s materials are relatively unique in the world to use this gene, most other old sweet corns rely on the sugar gene, and modern sweet corns rely on the shrunken-2 gene. Sweet corns with brittle-1 have been found to germinate better in tropical soils.