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NSF Grants $100M for Plant Genomics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Tomatoes, corn, insect resistance in poplar trees, and switchgrass durability through climate change are just some of the focus areas of the $101.6 million that the National Science Foundation has granted this week for plant genome sequencing projects.

Ranging broadly from $500,000 to $10.4 million, the 32 new NSF Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) grants will support projects using sequencing and functional genomics to study gene function and interactions between genomes and the environment in a number of important crop plants, including cotton, corn, rice, soybean, tomato, and wheat.

"The knowledge gained in these projects will serve as the basic foundation that will ultimately enable plant biologists and breeders to develop crop plants that are higher yielding and better able to adapt to a changing environment," NSF's former Assistant Director for Biological Sciences, James Collins, said in a statement.

These grants will be spread among 53 institutions in 30 states and include funding for international groups from Africa, Asia, Europe, and in the Americas.

First time winners of the PGRP awards include: Bowie State University; Brigham Young University; Central Michigan University; College of Wooster; Hamline University; Miami University; Montclair State University; New College of Florida; HudsonAlpha Institute; University of Buffalo; and the University of Maryland-College Park.

Begun in 1998, the PGRP is part of the National Plant Genome Initiative and includes cooperation from the National Science and Technology Council and the US Department of Agriculture, among others.

Many of the grant winners have previously been funded by PGRP and the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and the Department of Energy.

Winners of some of the largest grants include:

• The Boyce Thompson Institute, Colorado State University, and the University of Oklahoma – Norman, which won $10.5 million to contribute to the International Solanaceae Genome Initiative;

• The University of Texas at Austin, which received $4.6 million to study the genomics of switchgrass and its responses to climate change;

• Purdue University, Cornell University, the HudsonAlpha Institute, Iowa State University, and the University of Maryland-College Park won a total of $8.9 million to study uses for genetic diversity in soybeans;

• And the University of California-San Diego was awarded $3.8 million to use proteogenomics to discover and validate maize genes.

A complete list of the NSF grant winners is available here.

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