Pollen-Mediated Gene Flow in Maize: Implications for Isolation Requirements and Coexistence in Mexico, the Center of Origin of Maize

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Abstract or Summary

Mexico, the center of origin of maize (Zea mays L.), has taken actions to preserve the identity and diversity of maize landraces and wild relatives. Historically, spatial isolation has been used in seed production to maintain seed purity. Spatial isolation can also be a key component for a strategy to minimize pollen-mediated gene flow in Mexico between transgenic maize and sexually compatible plants of maize conventional hybrids, landraces, and wild relatives. The objective of this research was to generate field maize-to-maize outcrossing data to help guide coexistence discussions in Mexico. In this study, outcrossing rates were determined and modeled from eight locations in six northern states, which represent the most economically important areas for the cultivation of hybrid maize in Mexico. At each site, pollen source plots were planted with a yellow-kernel maize hybrid and surrounded by plots with a white-kernel conventional maize hybrid (pollen recipient) of the same maturity. Outcrossing rates were then quantified by assessing the number of yellow kernels harvested from white-kernel hybrid plots. The highest outcrossing values were observed near the pollen source (12.9% at 1 m distance). The outcrossing levels declined sharply to 4.6, 2.7, 1.4, 1.0, 0.9, 0.5, and 0.5% as the distance from the pollen source increased to 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 25 m, respectively. At distances beyond 20 m outcrossing values at all locations were below 1%. These trends are consistent with studies conducted in other world regions. The results suggest that coexistence measures that have been implemented in other geographies, such as spatial isolation, would be successful in Mexico to minimize transgenic maize pollen flow to conventional maize hybrids, landraces and wild relatives.

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