Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gun(n)s That Transformed Corn

Part II

Our story continues with the development of technology used in corn breeding. Weather conditions and insects continue to challenge farmers as they seek ways to increase corn yield. Researchers are continually looking for ways to grow healthy corn in increased quantities in order to feed a growing world population.


During the 1970s, developments in biotechnology allowed researchers to work directly with genetic material. The gene gun, invented from a collaboration of Cornell University and DuPont between 1983 and 1986, provided a delivery system for DNA into plant cells. The corn plant began to be examined in new ways.

The gene gun uses the method of microprojectile bombardment to add new genetic material to a plant. The process begins by identifying a trait to be added to the corn plant. One trait is the Bt gene to add resistance to the European Corn Borer. The genetic material is isolated from the source and coated onto tungsten particles.

The tungsten particles are placed on one end of a plastic "bullet" (in center dish of picture at left). This "bullet" is then placed in a firing chamber at the top of the machine. When fired, it slams into a stopping plate (in bottom dish in picture) with the tungsten particles going through a hole in the center of the plate and into a petri dish holding receptive corn plant cells.   
The impact from the firing blast causes a doughnut like devastation in the petri dish with the cells in the center being obliterated surrounded by a ring of transformed cells  and little change among the cells at the outermost edge of the petri dish.
The corn plant cells are encouraged to grow on a new medium and are eventually moved to a greenhouse. Use of the gene gun resulted in fertile transgenic plants. During the late 1990s, the gene gun showed a higher success rate over other available gene insertion technologies, making the gene gun the method of choice for many researchers.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Corn's Journey Around the World
 Presented by Walter Trevisan, International Corn Breeder Advisor

WHEN:   Wednesday, Nov. 13 – NOON - 1:00
WHERE:  Ellwood House Visitor Center – 509 N. First Street, DeKalb
FOR MORE INFORMATION:  Contact DAAHA at 815-756-8737

The third  “Brown Bag” lunch program of the Fall 2013 DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association’s (DAAHA) Agricultural Heritage Programs will be presented this Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 at the Ellwood House Visitor Center beginning at noon.  The audience is encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch.

During a career of 41 years in corn breeding and leading breeding teams Walter has hired and trained many breeders and has formed as many winning teams. Some of these teams and breeders have improved the lives of many farmers around the world!  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Gun(n)s That Transformed Corn

Part I

 The first gun in our story is a person. Charles L. Gunn was hired in 1917 as a stockman and corn breeder for the newly formed DeKalb County Agricultural Association. Charlie spent his summers driving his Model T Ford to Idaho in search of high quality forage seed to improve the stock in Illinois.

Charlie Gunn c. 1945
 Charlie Gunn began working with open-pollinated corn to breed a variety more suitable to the climate in central Illinois. The result was Gunn's Western Plowman. This variety of corn yielded up to 61.25 bushels per acre, considered to be high production in the 1920s.

Charlie Gunn traveled frequently in his work as a corn breeder. He knew and was friends with many of the men researching corn in the fields and laboratories. He was familiar with the research being conducted by University of Illinois chemists on hybrid corn. In 1925, Charles met with Henry Wallace, US Secretary of Agriculture, who talked about the production potential of hybrid corn. 

Charlie pulled these many influences together and began his own research on hybridizing corn. Corn breeding requires herculean patience. It took Charlie 10 years before he had results that he could share. His new hybrid was ready in 1933. It out yielded the open pollinated varieties by 35%. He began commercial planting.

In 1939, Charlie's first commercial hybrid (404A, a double cross hybrid) was grown. DeKalb 404A is the most outstanding hybrid of the first great decade of hybrid corn. It was grown from northern Nebraska across Iowa and southern Minnesota, and east through north-central Ohio and southern Michigan.  It introduces higher yields for shorter growing seasons, moving the U.S. Corn Belt 200 miles north.  It is the first popular and most popular proprietary double-cross hybrid. DeKalb 404A seeds were sold for over 25 years with a total sales of 5.5 million bags.

Charlie devoted over 50 years to corn breeding. His contributions transformed corn and its production.

See the photographic tribute exhibit, The Gunn Behind the Hybrid, at the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association gallery in the Nehring building downtown DeKalb, IL. 

Part II of this story will be posted next week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Check out DAAHA's New YouTube Channel!

DAAHA has a new YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/daahainc
We currently have 4 videos posted with much more to come. Subscribe to the channel to receive notifications of new videos.

DAAHA currently has the following videos posted:
Acres of Science Documentary
European Corn Borer Documentary
DeKalb Research "Tradition of Excellence"
The History of DeKalb Ag 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

DAAHA Hosts Open House

Help us celebrate DAAHA's progress! DAAHA is hosting an Open House
Sunday, June 23, 2013
2:00 - 4:00 pm
in the DAAHA galleries at Nehring Center
111 South Second St, Ste. 204
DeKalb, IL 60115

Dedicated volunteers and staff have cataloged the extensive archive and photograph collections of the DeKalb Agricultural Association. These collections are now ready for use by researchers and museum visitors.
This is just a portion of the DeKalb Ag donation prior to cataloging and organizing it.

Today the collection is easily accessible and useable for programs, exhibits and research.

The Open House will include tours of the exhibit galleries, behind the scenes storage spaces, the archive and new reference library. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Artifact in the Spotlight

     Instead of just one artifact in the spotlight, we are spotlighting 944.  DAAHA's DeKalb Agricultural Association photographic collection is live at

Click on Link to Virtual Museum to take you to the List of Exhibits page.

Choose the Photograph Collection from the list of exhibits. Click "View Exhibit Page" for the exhibit to open. The menu bar offers choices of seeing each photograph individually or as a listing in the Table of Contents. 

Each entry includes the photograph and a catalog description of the photograph. If you have any questions or comments about any of the photographs, please include the Object ID number so we can easily find the entry to address your comment!

DAAHA is extremely appreciative of its volunteers who described each image. Their dedication made this collection possible.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

DAAHA Sponsors Speaker for National Agriculture Week

When:  Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 7:00 a.m.
Where: DeKalb County Farm Bureau
Cost: $10.00 per person for the Speaker Breakfast. Reservations required

John Fietsam of Monsanto will present "Drought Busting Genetics - How Breeding Innovations Helped Save the 2012 Corn Crop".

It is widely accepted that the yield reduction in the 2012 drought was not as severe as many expected it to be. It was also not as great as it would have been 15 years ago. The presentation will describe some of the recent innovations that helped make this possible.

Reservations are required for the program and are due by March 18th. Contact the DeKalb County Farm Bureau at 815-756-6361. Cost is $10.00 per person.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


WHEN:   Wednesday, March 6 – NOON - 1:00
WHERE:  Ellwood House Visitor Center – 509 N. First Street, DeKalb
FOR MORE INFORMATION:  Contact DAAHA at 815-756-8737

The second “Brown Bag” lunch program of the Spring 2013 DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association’s (DAAHA) Agricultural Heritage Programs will be presented this Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at the Ellwood House Visitor Center beginning at noon.  The audience is encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch. Rich Ryan will reprise his talk to the DeKalb Alumni Association in the first of two parts. Part I, "Making Genetic Concepts a Farming Reality", focuses on the beginning of the Dekalb Agricultural Association.

The story continues with Part II on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at the Ellwood House Visitor Center, noon - 1:00 with "Achieving Success Via Furthering Innovations and Consolidations".

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Faivre Family: A Journey in Agriculture

On Wednesday, February 20th, Roger Steimel will be presenting the story of a family that emigrated from the French Alps to Illinois in search of opportunity and success. It is a story full of faith and fortitude.

The presentation will take place at the Ellwood Visitor Center, 509 N. First St. DeKalb, IL at 12:00 noon. At 2:30, Roger will be available in the Nehring Gallery at 111 South Second St. Ste. 204, DeKalb, IL for the opening of the Faivre family exhibit.