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NSF to Offer $15M for Plant Genome Research Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation will provide $15 million in 2012 to continue funding its Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP), an effort that has been supporting plant genome biology research since 1998.

In a new funding announcement, NSF said it expects to support 10 to 15 grants beginning in October 2012 for projects that pursue innovative ideas in basic research and tools development that will advance crop plant science and the plant biology realm in general.

The agency will not offer the Improving Plant Genome Annotation area of the program in this round, but it has added a new opportunity, the Mid-Career Investigator Awards in Plant Genome Research projects. The new program is aimed at boosting the participation of mid-career investigators who are trained in fields other than genomics, such as plant physiology or biochemistry.

Since the PGRP began, functional genomics tools and sequence resources for studying crop have become far more widely available, NSF stated, and projects that seek to build on those resources and develop new and different ideas for important plants on a genome-wide scale are encouraged. There also is a need for novel tools to facilitate new experimental approaches and new ways of analyzing data, particularly proposals that provide training opportunities that involve plant physiology, quantitative genetics, biochemistry, bioinformatics, and engineering.

These grants will fund three types of projects: genomics-empowered plant research to tackle fundamental questions in plant and agricultural sciences on a genome-wide scale; development of tools and resources for plant genome research including novel technologies and analysis tools; and the aforementioned Mid-Career Investigator Awards in Plant Genome Research (MCA-PGR).

The focus areas for the 2012 projects include studies to link genes and pathways to physiological functions in crop plants; research into plant-environmental interactions, particularly with respect to adaptation to climate change and response to abiotic and biotic stresses; systems-level approaches to understand the interaction between the genome and epigenome in the regulation of economically important plants.

There also is a need for development of new research tools, particularly for high-throughput phenotyping platforms, and priority will be given to development of new tools that may contribute broadly to the field of plant genomics. These projects may include research to improve tools for genome sequence assembly and analysis, novel methods for high-throughput phenotyping, and improve data visualization tools.

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