Nebraska native son and university professor Theodore Kiesselbach was “Mr. Corn.”
He won international recognition for his pioneering work in corn breeding and as a developer of hybrid corn. His name is on 143 publications, most notably the definitive description of the structure and reproductive processes of Nebraska’s greatest crop.
In 1969, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Crops Laboratory was renamed Kiesselbach Crops Research Laboratory to honor his impact on Nebraska agriculture. The laboratory’s research in crop stress tolerance, weed management, nutrition, agricultural productivity and food security helps farmers in Nebraska and around the world.
The university continues to lead in crop and plant science research. Faculty at the Center for Plant Science Innovation, established in 2008, work at the frontier of plant improvement. Studies of the complex relationships of corn roots and the microbes in the soil are revealing their influence on crop health and yields. Research to improve sorghum productivity and its potential as a biofuel crop grown on marginal lands aims at advancing sustainable ethanol production.
Nebraska’s Greenhouse Innovation Center, opened in 2015, is one of a few in the world with an automated phenotyping system for matching plant traits, or phenotypes, to genetic differences. The greenhouse facility uses conveyor belts to transport plants to specialized chambers where high-resolution images capture plant differences under varying environmental conditions. Matching these differences with a plant’s genetic makeup enables researchers to identify desirable genes and use them to improve disease resistance, drought tolerance and other yield-boosters.
Thanks to university research and hardworking farmers, Nebraska continuously ranks in the nation’s top crop producers. Its wheat varieties are planted on more than 50 percent of Nebraska wheat acres annually, delivering more than $100 million of economic impact to Nebraska farmers.
Professor Kiesselbach, Mr. Corn, would be particularly gratified by the state’s No. 1 ranking in white corn and popcorn.