Plant breeders are now taking advantage of one of nature’s imperfections in order to reduce the hand labor required in hybrid seed corn production and also to improve the dependability of the seed. This imperfection is referred to as “male sterility”. Male sterile plants are those whose tassels fail to produce fertile pollen but whose silks are fertile. The value of such an inbred strain is readily apparent. If a male sterile line is used as the female or seed parent, detasseling is not necessary, thus considerable labor is eliminated.
Unfortunately at the present time hybrids produced by this method inherit the male sterility factor or in other words don’t produce fertile pollen. As a result, it is necessary to mix this male-sterile seed with about 30% of male-fertile seed which is produced in the regular manner. The plants from the normal seed produce enough pollen to fertilize the male sterile plants as well as their own silks, thus, permitting the farmer to obtain a normal corn crop. It is evident that this condition makes it necessary to produce at least a part of the hybrid seed by conventional methods.
It now appears certain that in a few years, plant breeders will develop inbred lines which, when used as the male parent in the production of hybrid seed, will restore the male fertility to the plants produced by the hybrid seed. Such hybrids will then produce their own pollen and will not have to be mixed with hybrid seed produced by conventional methods. The use of the male sterility factor holds much promise in the production of hybrid seed corn and it is receiving the close attention of corn breeders.