39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
The Science in Our Food
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Maize (corn) is a cereal crop with the highest dollar value in the U.S. and abroad. Maize yields have increased eight-fold in the past century due largely to selecting for optimal architecture at increased planting densities. However, yield gains have plateaued in recent years imperiling progress toward meeting the world’s growing food and energy needs.
A greater understanding of the important agronomic traits in maize is necessary to develop more productive cereal crops for a growing population with less inputs, thus preserving precious natural resources.
To meet this need, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $3.4 million grant to Andrea Eveland, Ph.D., assistant member at the Danforth Plant Science Center to lead multi-institutional team that will work to develop a detailed knowledgebase of the complex gene networks that control plant structure in maize.
For example, breeding for upright leaves allows light capture within the lower canopy in dense fields, while optimizing the structure of the grain-bearing panicle (a loose, branching cluster of flowers) improves seed set, grain fill, and harvestability.
“Since networks controlling different aspects of growth are tightly interconnected, it is essential that we understand how manipulation of one trait affects others at the molecular level,” Eveland said.
The collaborative project brings together critical expertise in statistics, genomics and molecular biology necessary to make significant advances in decoding gene regulatory mechanisms connecting important agronomic traits.
In addition, the research program will include an education component featuring interactive curriculum in quantitative genetics and genomics for high school and rural community college teachers and students.
This project compliments on-going research at the Danforth Center to develop more abundant supplies of nutritious and sustainable sources of food, energy and medicine creating global economic growth and security for future generations.
For additional details, news release.
| Plant architectureNSFmaizeAndrea Eveland