MADISON — Lauren Baker: Looking towards the future in plant breeding we’re visiting today with Bill Tracy, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Extension Intern, Lauren Baker. Bill, tell us about what is new in seed and vegetable?
Bill Tracy: There’s a lot of things new, I mean plant breeders are always coming out with new things; there’s new improved flavor improved germination. Many people out there probably don’t know that Wisconsin is one of the leading sweet corn producing states in the country and also one of the leading vegetable processing states in the country. So, a lot of new stuff in vegetables always coming along. I think the biggest thing that everyone is talking about is, so called CRISPR.
Lauren Baker: Can you give us an example of what CRISPR is?
Bill Tracy: CRISPR is actually a very sophisticated way to turn genes off or on in plants, or knock them out and there’s two products that I know of that have already been approved. One of them is a button mushroom, you know the little white mushrooms that you eat and that is actually had a gene knocked out and this gene makes an enzyme that turns the mushrooms brown as they get bruised. The enzyme is now knocked out using CRISPR and the mushrooms don’t turn brown.
Lauren Baker: Bill, looking towards the future can you tell us about any opportunities?
Bill Tracy: Well a lot of these crops have been produced for a very long time. I think people are always looking for opportunities for new kinds of production and I’ll give you the example of the baby carrot. Baby carrot processing has increased the amount of carrots consumed by Americans enormously and a lot of us are looking for the new baby carrot of snap bean or sweet corn. We’re working on a sweet corn that I really believe does not need to be cooked I think it’s actually better fresh than cooked. With this new sweet corn you can just peel the husks back and eat the sweet corn.
Lauren Baker: Can you tell us a little bit more about the nutritional differences between fresh sweet corn and canned sweet corn?
Bill Tracy: Well actually, there really aren’t many differences everybody cooks their corn usually boils it or steams it and essentially that is what processed corn is, is essentially steamed corn. It actually maintains all the nutrients and has essentially the same nutritional value that a cooked ear at home does, most of the corn no longer has either salt or sugar added. So if you look at a label, in many cases it just says corn and water. So it is essentially the same product that you would cook at home, only its way more convenient.
Lauren Baker: How do you feel about the future of vegetable production?
Bill Tracy: Vegetable production, the trends are changing people are more interested in fresh food but they’re also looking for convenience and when you couple that with the nutrition especially with some of these easy to cook products I think that those kind of things are really going to expand and a lot of those easy to prepare processed foods are going to come from Wisconsin. So I’m very optimistic Wisconsin will continue to be a leader in this area.
Lauren Baker: We’ve been visiting today with Bill Tracy, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Extension Intern, Lauren Baker.
— Lauren Baker and Bill Tracy, UW-Extension
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