The National Science Foundation (NSF) is providing a boost to plant biology research through 15 grants totalling $62 million over the next five years.
"The awards [from the second year of the NSF Plant Genome Research Program: Collaborative Research and Infrastructure Projects] will continue to build on some of the exciting advances coming out of the work funded last year," says Mary Clutter, assistant director of NSF for biological sciences. "We can now begin to gain a comprehensive understanding of the functions of the genes required for normal plant development. In addition to advancing basic plant biology, this kind of work is the foundation of ongoing efforts toward the rapid and systematic development of improved crops. Eventual outcomes will be of importance both to agriculture and to industries using plant-based materials."
The new research will contribute to a better understanding at the genome level of the inner workings of all plants, including economically important crops like maize (corn), pine, rice, and potato.
Some important crop plants such as maize and wheat have large, complex genomes. However, only parts of these genomes contain genes. Scientists are just beginning to find out where the genes are and how they are organized. At Iowa State University, research will focus on detailed mapping of new genetic markers in maize. Research funded at the University of Wisconsin at Madison will provide an optical map of the rice genome currently being sequenced as part of an international project. This is a first step toward developing a comprehensive understanding of the organization of this genome. Complementary research funded at Purdue University and Rutgers University will tie together gene content and organization in of the barley, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat genomes.
A first step in discovering the functions of individual plant genes will
be to find out when and where they are "turn
Contact: Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation