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DoE Awards $64M in Funding to Groups Using Genomics to Study Plants, Microbes

NEW YORK — The US Department of Energy announced on Wednesday that it has earmarked $64 million over three years to fund a series of research projects that will use genomics to study plants and microbes for bioenergy and bioproduct applications.

"We are entering an era when genomics is giving us ever greater understanding of what controls biological systems," DoE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar said in a statement. "This research will help us improve crops grown for bioenergy and bioproducts, while at the same time deepening our knowledge of complex and interacting biological processes within specific environmental systems."

The microbe-focused initiatives will receive up to $35 million and will focus on the impact of microbe communities on soil nutrient cycling. Among the funding recipients are scientists from Ohio State University and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, who are investigating viruses in soil as modulators of microbiomes and nutrient cycling; and researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, who are looking at the role of cross-kingdom interactions in nutrient cycling in grassland soils.

The plant research projects will receive as much as $29 million to investigate gene function in plants used for fuels and other products in order to improve beneficial traits such as drought tolerance. Grant recipients include scientists from the University of California, Davis and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, who are conducting genome-wide association studies and expression quantitative trait nucleotide mapping with molecular and genetic validations to identify transcriptional networks regulating drought tolerance.

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