Crop Genomics and Biotechnology: Engineering Sustainable Food, Fiber, and Fuel
A persistent increase in human population size and standard of living without an increase in arable land places an imperative demand on agricultural science to increase sustainable farm production. Genomics is an enabling echnology for research on any plant species, facilitating gene discovery, plant breeding, and genetic engineering. We specialize in the use of model systems such as Arabidopsis thaliana and Brachypodium distachyon and numerous cultivated species including alfalfa, camelina, rice, tomato, and pine. Work on these species focuses on biomass accumulation and biofuel conversion efficiency and plant tolerance to environmental stress. Indeed, the greatest threat to food security is the damage caused by plant pathogens and abiotic stresses such as heat and drought. Collectively this group investigates these grand challenges by studying gene regulatory networks, post-transcription and post-translation processes, and the basis and mechanisms of domestication and adaptation. Revelations of pathway architecture and the means to genetically transform plants has resulted in the engineering of novel pathways and subsequently novel natural products. New understanding of the regulation of plant growth has resulted in a patent application and the formation of the start up company Genoverde Biosciences. Notable theme strengths in both basic research and applied systems will continue to result in translation to agriculture markets.