Corn Genetics and Statistical Analysis

Seed to STEM
Grade Level: Middle School

Overview One form of genetic modification that has been used for centuries is artificial selection, or selective breeding. This is the selection of individuals or populations possessing desirable traits to produce the next generation. This process has given rise to many of the plants and animals we encounter every day. For example, different breeds of dogs. Some are good at hunting and retrieving game, and others are specifically bred for companionship and living in a house. Additional example, different breeds of cattle. Some are bred for milk production, and others bred specifically for beef. Corn has been developed over the years and is currently being improved to produce higher yields in drought conditions, resistance to pests, and other advantageous characteristics through this process. Artificial selection also played an important role in the development of the theory of natural selection. An understanding of Mendelian inheritance and statistical analysis of the results of crosses is important in determining the genes of an organism and the ability to produce offspring with the desired traits.

In this lab, students will observe ears of corn from F2 plants produced by a dihybrid cross for the traits of kernel color and endosperm composition, which changes the shape of the kernel. The color blue is dominant to yellow, and the starchy nonwrinkled endosperm is dominant to a sugary wrinkled endosperm. Students will hypothesize the genotypes of the parents (F1 generation). First, students will look at each trait independently, then look at the independent assortment or linkage between the two traits. These hypotheses will be used to make predictions that will be analyzed by collecting data and applying a chi-square test.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will develop a hypothesis of the genotypes of the parents in monohybrid.
  • Students will predict the outcome of their hypothesis using knowledge of inheritance and probability.
  • Students will quantify the results of monohybrid crosses and analyze their hypotheses with their data collection by performing chi square analysis.