Corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) is a costly and destructive pest in sweet corn (Zea mays) production. A recurrent selection experiment was conducted to assess the feasibility of selecting a sweet corn population for longer husks without shortening the ears and to determine whether direct selection for longer husks confers improved resistance to the corn earworm. The initial population was derived from crosses between long- and tight-husked inbred lines (A684su, A685su, and A686su) originally selected for resistance to the european corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) and a high-quality commercial hybrid parent (‘Super Sweet Jubilee Plus’). Three cycles of recurrent full-sib family selection were conducted from 2014 to 2016, with a selection intensity of ≈10% per cycle. In 2017, the cycles of selection were evaluated and compared with common commercial cultivars for husk extension, ear length, rate of corn earworm infestation, and extent of corn earworm damage. Ears were artificially infested with corn earworm eggs suspended in an agar solution. The population was successfully selected for longer husk extension without shortening the ears, but the increase in husk extension did not correspond to an increase in corn earworm resistance. Further evaluation is needed to determine whether long husk extension is ineffective as a source of corn earworm resistance, whether it is more effective in combination with other resistance traits, whether greater differences in husk extension are needed to confer biologically significant differences in corn earworm resistance, or whether improved inoculation methods could improve differentiation between genotypes.
Current address: Department of Crop & Soil Sciences, NC State University, Campus Box 7620, Raleigh, NC 27695.
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