Main objective: To develop a robust model of pollen movement in maize under UK conditions, based on molecular tracking of marker genes in the field, and to use the model to make recommendations on cultivation practice that will prevent cross-contamination.
Policy relevance: Information on gene dispersal by cross-pollination between maize crops (including genetically modified varieties), and from maize to other species, is limited under UK agronomic and climatic conditions. The proposed research will provide data on the potential for contamination of maize crops through cross-pollination within the context of UK climate, geography and agricultural practice. The work plan comprises data gathering and modelling strategies that will produce statistically meaningful results, leading to a final report that will include recommendations on separation distances and barriers.
Research plan: Defined maize genotypes will be grown in 8 geographically dispersed locations in England and Wales, each comprising a cluster of 5 sites and a metereorological station. Cobs will be sampled, and pollen will also be trapped, covering a range of distances between pollen donor and recipients. Pollen dispersal will be monitored by genotyping using maize microsatellites. Molecular, metereorological and agronomic data will be collected over 4 years. In addition, transposon-tagged lines will be exploited to monitor the extent of inter-species pollination. A Gaussian plume model of pollen flow will be used, based on geographical, meteorological and agronomic data. The predictive value of the model will be tested and statistically-supported recommendations will be reported.
Deliverables and their use: this will be the first study of pollen dispersal from maize under UK conditions and will provide novel information of agronomic, environmental and commercial value. A key deliverable will be a model of pollen flow validated specifically for the crop grown in England and Wales. Options for avoiding or minimising cross-contamination will be presented. The study will also provide data on which worst-case estimates of interspecific pollination and gene transfer can be based.