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NSF Gives $100M for Plant Genomics Research

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation has awarded $101.9 million for a range of research projects that dive into the genomes of plants to make discoveries that could be valuable for developing more sustainable and disease-resistant crops.

The Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) grants this year has supported 28 new awards that will fund research at 42 institutions and collaborations with researchers abroad, NSF said this week.

Ranging between $630,000 and $9.6 million, the PGRP grants give funding for between two and five years to support researchers who will use sequencing and functional genomics to understand interactions between genes and the environment in useful crop plants such as rice, cotton, soybean, corn, tomato, and wheat.

"These projects will provide new insights into how changes in plant genomes translate into changes in growth and development in a range of environments," NSF Acting Director for Biological Sciences Joan Roskoki said in a statement. "Basic research leads to new discoveries that will improve the quality and yield of crop plants, and in the longer term, to innovations that will support the bio-based economy of the 21st Century."

First-time recipients of the grants under the PGRP program, which is in its 13th year, include Alcorn State University, Saint Augustine's College, Saint Michael's College, Doane College, and the University of Vermont.

The PGRP is coordinated by the National Science and Technology Council with representatives from the US Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the US Agency for International Development, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget.

Included among the 28 research projects funded by the PGRP program are genomics studies at the University of Texas at Austin that will identify gene networks that regulate fiber and cellulose biosynthesis in cotton; genomics studies conducted by the University of California that will characterize genetic networks that control soybean seed development; an international effort led by the University of Pennsylvania that will develop standards for epigenomics research; a University of Florida study that will use environmental, physiological, and genetic data to develop a model to help breeders predict how a plant will do in certain environments; and a study at Michigan State University that will use integrated genetic, genomic, molecular, and computational strategies to identify carotenoid and vitamin E levels in corn kernels.

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