NSF awards 19 new projects to better undestand genetic processes in plants of economic importance

The National Science Foundation (NSF) made 19 new awards totaling $58.7 million in the eighth year of its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). The 2- to 5- year awards, ranging from $622,000 to $7.7 million, fund research and tools to reveal information in the genomes of economically important crop plants such as wheat and soybeans as well as increase understanding of the genetic control of plant processes including disease resistance, flavor development, seed growth and wood formation.

"PGRP-funded research is helping to unearth secrets rooted in plant genomes," said Mary Clutter, head of NSF's biological sciences directorate. "In addition to enabling discoveries in basic plant biology, these latest projects will expose a host of new students to cutting-edge plant genome research. Well-trained students are critical to the future of plant biology," Clutter continued.

The new awards, made to 36 U.S. institutions in 24 states, include three international collaborative projects. First-time PGRP award recipients include California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, Claflin University, Michigan Technological University, University of Puget Sound, University of South Carolina and University of Wyoming.

The genomes of economically important plants are often large and complex, but through in-depth studies scientists will uncover information that can be translated into new and improved products and practices. Plant genome research holds enormous promise for improving plants of all sizes, from small crop plants to towering trees.

Examples of awards targeting major crop plants include:

A project led by the University of Washington in Seattle investigates the poorly understood, yet widely accepted phenomenon of "hybrid vigor," whereby offspring turn out bigger and hardier than their parents.

Researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explore nitrogen responses in maize to elucidate the genetic basis for dr

Contact: Randy Vines
National Science Foundation

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