Summary: What makes popcorn pop?

Dave Matthews matthews at
Wed Jan 14 16:15:39 EST 1998

Thanks to all the folks who sent such helpful answers to my question,
summarized below.
- Dave

I said:

>Is popability a single gene?  How does it work?  Could it be transferred to
>wheat or oats or rice?  Is "puffed" wheat etc. related?

Marty Sachs <msachs at> said:

: Unlike sweetcorn which is mostly due to a single gene change (either su1 or
: sh2), popcorn is actually a 'race'.  Popability is a very complex trait that
: involves kernel shape and size, post harvest moisture content, pericarp
: quality, etc.   Popcorns also carry gametophyte factors (which allow them
: to self pollinate but not be fertilized by foreign pollen). Popability is
: thought to be a primitive trait and George Beadle (who studied the origin
: of maize) demonstrated that teosinte kernels could be popped and speculated
: that this was why it was originally domesticated.
: It seems to me that "puffed" wheat is more like "puffed" corn than popped
: corn.
: For further info, see:

L. Curtis Hannah <hannah at GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU> said:

:   As a matter of fact, regular corn will pop.  Throw some in the microwave
: and a good percentage will pop.
:  Oliver Nelson, years ago, went to Purdue as a popcorn breeder.  He could
: fill you in with many details.

Tom Peterson <thomasp at> said:

: The Agronomy Dept. at Purdue has developed "pop sorghum".

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