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NSF Awards $14M to Advance Plant Genomic Research

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The National Science Foundation has announced that it has awarded $14 million to several centers to study plant genomics.

The money will go to several programs focused on economically important plants and will study their genome sequences, genetic markers, maps and expressed sequence collections, the NSF said.

A project led by researchers at Iowa State University will develop sequence and map resources to study polyploidy in cotton, while researchers at the University of Missouri will look at the impact of polyploidy on plant form in Brassica species, which includes plants such as canola and Brussels sprouts.

Other projects at the University of Georgia and the University of Arizona will develop sequence resources to study genome organization in wheat and rice.

The studies will also study weeds, which not only compete with crops for nutrients but are also related to some crops. For instance, Washington University will study the genome of red rice, a weed that greatly reduces yields of cultivated rice, to find out its relation to domesticated rice.

"If the Plant Genome Research Program has been making the bricks that build a conceptual framework for the genomes of economically important crop plants, these projects will provide the mortar," said James Collins, NSF assistant director for biological sciences.

"The impact of genomics in evolutionary, ecological and population studies of crop plants will be far-reaching."

A related project led by investigators at Michigan State University will investigate differences in gene expression in weedy and cultivated radishes to uncover which genes are associated with invasiveness.

"The outcomes of this new program will tie together studies of the evolution of gene structure, function and regulation across the whole plant kingdom," said Collins.