Plant Sciences Institute

Department of Agronomy

Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding

The Perfect Watermelon

In Mr. Baker's spare time, he worked to breed the perfect watermelon. Lucky colleagues often received seeds of his cultivars.

Raymond F. Baker in corn field

Raymond F. Baker (1906-1999)

Raymond F. Baker, Plant Breeder

The Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding is named for one of Iowa's legends. His extensive work in corn breeding led to unprecedented innovations in the farming industry.

Roots in Iowa

Raymond F. Baker was born on a farm near Beaconsfield in Ringgold County, Iowa. He attended Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) and majored in agriculture. He became interested in plant breeding when he met Henry Wallace, founder of the Hi-Bred Corn Company, later named Pioneer Hi-bred Corn Company. Baker's interest in plant breeding led him to enter the 1927 Iowa Corn Yield Test, where he won the Banner Trophy for the highest yielding entry.

A Pioneering Plant Breeder

Henry Wallace hired Baker to work for Pioneer Hi-bred Corn Company. During those early years, Wallace taught Baker the techniques and procedures of plant breeding. In 1933, when Wallace became Secretary of Agriculture in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Baker became Pioneer's lead plant breeder. He worked at Pioneer for 43 years, developing many of the company's first hybrid seed corns. His rigorous scientific methods helped to lay the groundwork that made Pioneer Hi-bred the successful seed corn company it is today.

"Mr. Baker often stated he enjoyed corn breeding so much he would pay for the opportunity to do it, and in a way he did. Corn breeding became his entire life."

--A. Forrest Troyer

Baker's Other Interests

In 1934, Mr. Baker began working on developing the first hybrid chicken. He produced chickens that were selected for increased egg production. His hybrid chickens, which showed a 40%-50% increase in egg production, became commercially available in 1942.