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University of Delaware to Lead USDA Maize Genomics Study

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – University of Delaware researchers have received a five-year $4.2 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture to lead a multi-center team seeking to enhance the genetic diversity of corn for cultivation in North America.

The University of Delaware's department of plant and soil sciences will use the funding from The US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture funding plans "help plant breeders increase breeding efficiency and access more genetic diversity, increasing their capability of responding to current and future challenges in food production," according to a statement from the University of Delaware.

The team will engage in a range of studies involving genome sequence analysis and analytics, as well as conducting testing in the field and in controlled environments.

In one line of studies, for example, the partners will seek to understand the genes involved in how environmental variables such as temperature and the length of days in different regions influence plant maturity, which can be a major barrier keeping tropical plants from adapting in new regions.

In another part of the study, the researchers will aim to find out if there are common regions in which the corn genome is associated with broad environmental adaptation and will seek to follow genetic tracks through its adaptation.

"If adaptation is achieved through one or a few genetic tracks, then existing methods can be used to more quickly adapt tropical maize to different environments," said Randy Wisser, an assistant professor in the department of plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware, said in a statement. "If, on the other hand, there are multiple independent genetic tracks to adaptation then a different set of solutions will be needed.”

Joining the University of Delaware researchers on the project will be investigators at the University of Missouri; North Carolina State University; Iowa State University; the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Texas A&M University.

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