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Genomic biology institute's first grant to focus on soybeans, climate change

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- One of the five newly named research themes of the Institute for Genomic Biology under construction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has landed the institute's first major federal grant.

A three-year $2.98 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will allow a team led by Evan DeLucia, a professor of plant biology, to focus on the genetic responses of soybeans to climate change. The DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research approved the grant this month.

DeLucia's work falls under the Genomic Ecology of Global Change research theme, directed by plant scientist Don Ort. The theme was announced in April by IGB Director Harris Lewin.

Under the project, soybeans -- a crop vital to the state's agricultural economy -- will be used as a model system for using new and emerging genomic technologies to answer unresolved questions arising from climatic changes projected for the next century.

"We'll be using genomic technologies that are new and untested with soybeans, a crop whose genetic makeup already is pretty well defined," DeLucia said. "We want to know how changes in carbon dioxide and ozone concentrations in the atmosphere affect the productivity of the crop."

In addition to greenhouse gases, DeLucia's team will study the potential effects of drought under global warming conditions and how insect populations and crop pathogens may change. The project also will call upon bioinformatics data analysis and the metabolomics (biochemical profiling) of soybean varieties.

Soybean researchers already know that the various types of soybeans respond differently to environmental influences, but they've been unable to identify the mechanisms that drive such responses. Such new approaches may help them to do so. "Eventually, by using these new and developing genomic technologies, agronomists may be able to know what genes or suites of genes are important for their crops under s
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Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
jebarlow@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
25-May-2004


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