Every corn kernel results from a flower on an ear of corn, Gallie explained. Initially the ear produces a pair of flowers for every kernel. But then one of the sister flowers undergoes abortion, resulting in one flower for each kernel. Gallie's research group has developed technology that essentially rescues the aborted flower, resulting in two kernels that are fused together. "Despite the fusion, the kernels are not bigger," Gallie said. "It's basically the same corn, except that it is protein-rich and starch-poor - something that, if applied to sweet corn, would appeal to a large number of weight-conscious people in this country who are interested in low-carb diets and who normally avoid corn in their diets."
Gallie and his colleagues published their work last year in The Plant Journal. Though their research focused on feed corn, the technology can easily be applied to sweet corn, a sugar-rich mutant strain of regular corn.