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Prof develops high-protein corn

Published: Thursday, June 17, 2004

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

Texas A&M assistant professor of soil and crop sciences Javier Betran, and his corn breeding team are trying to develop corn with increased protein quality. The corn, Quality Protein Maize, would reduce the need for expensive protein supplements when fed to livestock.

"If we can increase the value of corn by incorporating good characteristics, that corn will be more appreciated by farmers," Betran said.

Corn producers would be interested in growing QPM if it would increase their income, said David Gibson, executive director of the Texas Corn Producers Board, which helps fund the research.

"It's important that (Betran) is doing what he's doing to develop it at that level," Gibson said. "But it's also important that a market is developed to put a premium on those traits."

Gibson said producers have experimented with growing specialty corn in the past, and that the market did not put the value on it that it was worth.

"Producers are a little bit cautious about being ready to adopt it if it has any added cost in production or seed cost without knowing that they have a market," Gibson said.

Darrell Knabe, A&M professor of animal science, said that if QPM was the price of regular corn it would lessen the cost of the diet required for pigs.

"It would make sense economically when it's as cheap as regular corn because you get the advantage of higher nutritional value," Knabe said.

Two essential amino acids, lysine and tryptophan, are deficient in regular corn but enhanced in QPM.

Knabe said that currently, pigs are fed an average of 80 percent corn, which is about five cents per pound, and 20 percent soybean supplement, which is about ten cents per pound.

"If you have QPM, which is high in lysine, you could feed them 85 percent corn and 15 percent soybean," Knabe said.

Knabe said QPM is not currently fed to pigs because it is not yet being commercially produced.

Betran said QPM is also good for humans. He said he has not eaten the corn by itself, but has eaten tortillas made from it.

"They taste good. It is comparable with regular corn tortillas," he said.

Betran said his team has been working on the project for six years, and will continue their work as long as funding will allow.

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