sealPurdue News

December 2000

Purdue researchers unveil program to track crop traits

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Seed companies, grain handlers and food processors will have an easier time tracking value-added, genetic traits in crops thanks to a new computer program developed by Purdue University researchers.

"With this system, we can track the purity of these products from seeds planted in the field to the grain used to make taco shells, and we can do it at a reasonable cost," says Rick Vierling, a Purdue agronomy professor and director of the Indiana Crop Improvement Association Genetics Lab. The program will help breeders and producers develop crops that are more nutritious, are easier to process or have pharmaceutical properties, he says.

Vierling and Purdue statistics professor Bruce Craig jointly developed the computer program, which Vierling demonstrated Sept. 13-15 at an international meeting sponsored by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, AgraEurope and Freiberg Publishing. Copies of the program will be available in December.

Craig and Vierling designed the software to track the purity of genetic traits in loads of grain. Food processors eventually may use it to track and buy grain higher in certain vitamins, minerals or other substances beneficial to human health, as well as to track the prevalence of grain that contains genetically modified traits.

To use the program, an individual or company must gather field data themselves, or contract with staff from crop improvement organizations to gather field information. In addition, they must contract out laboratory analyses of seed and grain samples. Data from both field and bin inspections, as well as from the lab, are entered into the computer program, which combines the data and then estimates the purity of the harvested grain.

Compared to existing methods for analyzing grain purity, this should give reliable results at a lower cost, Vierling says.

"People are wanting to go to a systems approach," Vierling says. "If you relied solely on lab testing, the cost would be higher than the value of the product. We're combining field purity data and laboratory results in a compromise that keeps costs down."

Sources: Rick Vierling, (765) 523-2535;

Bruce Craig, (765)-494-6043;

Writer: Rebecca J. Goetz (765) 494-0461;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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