Alden Perkins is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where his research is focused on improving seed lines by incorporating diversity from exotic corn varieties. During his time in the NCGA Research Ambassador program, Perkins has been able to better understand farmers' concerns which have helped him create purposeful research.
“The conversations I had through this program gave me a better understanding of what growers look for when choosing hybrids and the relative value of different traits,” Perkins shared. “For example, it was very helpful to hear from growers based in other parts of the country about their experiences with managing tar spot and recent wind events.”
Through his initial research, Perkins found that many of the current seed corn hybrids in the U.S. are the result of selecting the best progeny from improved U.S. inbred lines. While this has proven successful, W.A. Russell, Iowa State professor and colleague’s study on a Peruvian inbred line encouraged Perkins to explore exotic varieties.
“My research takes advantage of quantitative genetic techniques, predictive modeling, and multi-location field trials conducted by the Genomes to Fields initiative to understand how breeders can use the tremendous genetic diversity found in corn globally to improve the crop here in the Midwest,” notes Perkins.
With his research, Perkins hopes to better understand how the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize program can improve plant performance using exotic seed lines. Additionally, Perkin’s goal is to better understand germplasm enhancement to create elite inbred lines for growers.
Before starting his research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Perkins earned his Master of Science at The Pennsylvania State University and his Bachelor of Science at the University of New Hampshire. At each respective school, Perkins served as a teaching assistant on science-based courses and labs. These experiences instilled a passion for getting students interested in agriculture and, more specifically, corn production.
The NCGA Research Ambassador program was developed by the Sustainable Ag Research Action Team and supported by Valent. The program is designed to create a network of young leaders passionate about the agriculture industry. Participants are given the opportunity to interact with corn growers, participate in Capitol Hill visits, attend NCGA meetings and connect their lab to the farm.