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High Anthocyanin Purple Foliage Corn / Maize Improvement

To breed a superior highly adaptive purple foliage corn that can thrive in Colorado (and elsewhere) and has as much anthocyanins as possible while still maintaining large good cob genetics and stalks and does not contain any genetic drag as is often found in purple corn varieties. Breeding and selecting a new purple foliage corn for modern climate change is key to having this trait survive in the future. Flint corn is preferred, but waxy corn, pod corn, and flour corns could be used and re-selected into multiple sub-strains.

The first main goals are to breed maize / corn that has lots of purple anthocyanins in the foliage, stems, leaves, cobs, and husks (and possibly in the kernels as well). The second main goals are to eliminate any puny cobs that have an extraneous amount of husks which is common in purple foliage maize. My Colorado adapted landrace already should have these puny cobs eliminated. However it is always good to introduce new genetics periodically. I have a small sample of other purple foliage corn that is from ARS GRIN that should also have good genetics to fold in. I also have some old purple pod corn that i would like grown out that maybe could be mixed in.

As a side note, i have once observed this corn of mine to occasionally have air roots exuding a sappy substance. From modern research we now know these corn types exude a sugary sap to feed nitrogen fixing bacteria. Any of these should be noted and saved separately for a sub-breeding project!

My corn was also originally selected to thrive in extra early Northern Colorado spring plantings on April 1st, much earlier than our last expected frost. When planted with other Indian corn and sweet corn varieties, mine would always survive fine even with early spring snow, while the other corn varieties would die. I have not continued to put this selection pressure on this variety, but i would like to someday. This landrace may still have this unusual cold tolerance ability, which is probably related to the high anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known to help keep plants alive in cold weather and help provide a small amount of energy much like chlorophyll.

The husks and cobs can be boiled in water to produce a dark anthocyanin water. This may be able to used for natural fabric dying or maize morado like drinks or natural food coloring.

Researcher background
I have been gardening and plant breeding for at least 15 years. I have been breeding / selecting / growing purple foliage Indian corn for most of that same amount of time. My purple corn is even mentioned in the book "Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener by Joseph Tychonievich" on page 40.

Some of my most successful and ambitious projects involve breeding a watermelon landrace for northern Colorado. Experimenting with domestic watermelon x citron-melon hybrids, growing and adapting various teosinte species to colorado, growing teosinte-corn hybrids, breeding red-podded peas, and breeding with domestic x wild tomato crosses.

Since i already have lots of seed for my own highly selected purple foliage corn, but i do not currently have enough room or time to dedicate to it, i figured i would offer it up here on the EFN to those with similar passions and interests. Perhaps together we can accomplish more than what i can accomplish on my own. Other odd projects of mine may follow in the near future.
Are you seeking volunteer growers or other types of volunteers?
Yes, seeking volunteer growers
How many volunteers do you need?
What will you ask volunteers to do?
Volunteers need to have experience growing corn and be confident that they can grow a crop of corn to maturity. Volunteers do not need to collect data or necessarily hand pollinate (unless they wish to do so). They just need to be excited about this project to the point where it starts to consume them. :) They will need to periodically send decent sized seed samples back. They need to select out any that have genetic drag such as weak puny cobs, but they may need to keep heterozygous plants in the population for awhile when introducing new genetics at least until they can select back out the darkest colored homozygous plants.
Other requirements of volunteers?
Experienced with growing corn / maize. Extreme enthusiasm for high anthocyanin crops.
Is this a multi-year project?
Can volunteers expect to be able to keep some germplasm (seeds, bulbs, cuttings, spores, etc) at the close of the project?
Yes, of course
Researcher Location

United States

Project Updates

Fantastic Project!

project update by
Monday, February 19, 2024 - 06:36

Hello, I'm new here and this seems like a perfect fit for me! I've been growing hardy corn in my very short season for 3 years and have gone all in! It is my favorite plant and I especially love the dark purple/black colors! I'm located in north eastern WA state zone 5 and about 90z average frost free days. We get extreme temps in the summer and winter and rain fall is hit or miss. It's rugged but I've had luck selecting out of the painted mountain and mountain morado corns I was able to get my hands on the first year I decided to try corn. Let me know how to get some of this amazing seed and join the project! I'm really excited to get in on this effort!

Corn smut

project update by
Wednesday, November 16, 2022 - 12:59

We are running a corn smut trial next season. I would be interested in trying out some of your seeds in the trial if you would like.


project update by
Friday, January 7, 2022 - 06:17

This sounds like an interesting stalk with several silks. Among other things, Elderberry cultivars thrive in our small, very natural hobby garden in the SW Missouri Ozarks. In 2021, we very successfully grew EFN's Tetapache Gray Mottled Cowpeas and continue to enjoy this delicious heirloom variety though the winter. In 2020, we grew a nice little crop of Glass Gem corn, which we popped for a tasty snack today. We realize that it's not much, but we could dedicate 80 sq. ft. to one of these noble efforts. Thanks, Mike

I'm very interested!

project update by
Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - 02:23

I have a chunk of property that is devoted to rotating squash and corn since they can grow in the presence of juglone. I'd be happy to see what would come up here!

Purple people power

project update by
Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 03:22

I’m in mountains of western NC and I’ve been growing Maize morado for 11 years, and twice I’ve grown one other mysterious high anthocyanin Maize from Guatemala highlands that someone brought back and gave me, both of them make the aerial (presumably n-fixing ) mucilaginous roots. I accidentally crossed maize morado with Cherokee white eagle dent corn nine years ago. Also growing teosinte for the third time this year. I’ve been using swarm breeding approach rather than tight trait selection, for maximum diversity, moving towards a shorter season, shorter stalked dark purple plant and cob with loads of dripping aerial roots and dent kernels. I’d love to grow out your seeds in isolation, send some back to you and keep some to add to my swarm here. Thank you!

Project Restrictions

project update by
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 09:47

I am new to the experimental farm network and would love to be part of this project! I'm excited. Would it be preferred that I refrain from growing other strains of corn wile working on this project?