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Cornell Researchers Awarded $1.3M NSF Grant to Study Genetics of Rice Traits

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Researchers from Cornell University have received a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to identify and study DNA sequences responsible for key traits in rice in order to facilitate their use in crop improvement.

Despite the growing availability of new DNA analysis technologies, identifying quantitative trait loci — key determinants of crop productivity — remains a key challenge facing the agrigenomics space, according to the grant's abstract.

To address this, Cornell researcher Adam Bogdanove and colleagues aim to isolate rice DNA sequences associated with three key crop characteristics — disease resistance, disease susceptibility, and tolerance to acid soils — and examine their effects when transferred into rice varieties that show low levels of these traits.

The effort will combine existing genotypic and phenotypic data, computational methods, and recently released genome sequences for 3,000 rice accessions, with genome editing to functionally evaluate isolated genetic polymorphism in new genetic backgrounds, the abstract states. "Co-variation will also be examined for each trait to test for genetic background effects on allele viability, and in the case of disease susceptibility and resistance, allelic variation in pathogen-targeted genes will be queried for evidence of purifying or positive selection."

Findings from the four-year grant, which began on May 1, are expected to improve the overall understanding of plant resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, assist in developing new methods to enhance such resistance, and add to the growing body of data stemming from the NSF's Plant Genome Research Program.