NCCC-167 continued

posted in: Science | 2

The NCCC-167 meeting is over, and I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to attend. The acronym stands for North Central Communications Committee, and 167 is the USDA-ARS project number. It turns out that there are hundreds of projects, some of which are designated for conferences and communications, such as this one. Apparently this particular conference used to be NCR-2 (North Central Region) but the rumor is that a Kansas corn breeder forgot to renew the project in time, so the group had to reapply and got a much higher number. That happened so long ago that 167 is a well recognized number in the corn breeding community.
The most important idea I took from the meeting, besides the reminder that there’s a lot more to scientists than you’d think from just reading their papers (as I described in NCCC-167), is that groups really need to stay organized. The Maize Genetics Community is well structured and very large, as can be seen from the huge number of attendees at the Maize Genetics Conference (more on that in another post, it’s where I am at this very moment). There are just as many if not more maize breeders as there are maize geneticists, but they don’t have as cohesive of a community. I’m not sure why this is, but it certainly seems to be a problem. Without strong lines of communication across the community, the group has a decreased ability to apply for collective grants, less ability to share information and techniques, etc. The importance of breeding will only grow as climate change brings diseases and pests to areas where they did not exist before and as population growth demands higher yields. My major professor and  a few others in the community seem dedicated to bringing stability and continuity to the group. I look forward to watching it grow back to its former glory.
I took extensive notes on the wonderful talks at NCCC-167, and hope to post more about them in the coming days. Most importantly, I’m anticipating additional information about breeding high methionine maize for organic chicken feed from Walter Goldstein of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. We may not see eye to eye on every topic, but I certainly agree that we could use nutritionally enhanced corn, and that’s one heck of an important place to start a conversation!
For now, I must turn my attention to the Maize Genetics Conference – let’s hope I can keep up!

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Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!