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MSU Research History: Beal First in Hybrid Corn

W. J. Beal in Beal Gardens

1873 – Botany professor W. J. Beal becomes one of the pioneers in the development of hybrid corn, and doubles the yield of corn plantings at the time.

The author of The Story of Corn (1992), Betty Harper Fussell, says:

“After studying with Louis Agassiz at Harvard, Beal went on to Michigan Agricultural College and there produced the first controlled crosses of maize (scientists are wont to call corn “maize”) … he discovered that doubling the crossings disproportionately increased yield, turning eight-rowed Indian corn into twenty-four-rowed hybrid corn.

“Beal’s triumph was memorialized in a plaque erected by his successor at Michigan, P.G. Holden. ‘Near this spot in 1877, Beal became the first to cross-fertilize corn for the purpose of increasing yields through hybrid vigor.'”

– Photo: W. J. Beal in Beal Botanical Garden

Source:
Betty Harper Fussel, The Story of Corn, (UNM Press, 1992), 71 – “Beal’s triumph was memorialized in a plaque erected by his successor at Michigan, P.G. Holden. ‘Near this spot in 1877, Beal became the first to cross-fertilize corn for the purpose of increasing yields through hybrid vigor…he discovered that doubling the crossings disproportionately increased yield, turning eight-rowed Indian corn into twenty-four-rowed hybrid corn.”

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