Source: Cornell University

A team of Cornell researchers will develop a tool to knock out genes in maize and another team will sequence wild rice genes, identify their functions and insert key genes into cultivated lines for breeders, thanks to large grants from the National Science Foundation.

Thomas Brutnell, a scientist at Boyce Thompson Institute on Cornell's campus and adjunct associate professor in plant breeding and genetics, leads a team that received a three-year, $2.5 million NSF Plant Genome Research grant to develop a way for Ds transposons, or jumping genes, to knock out other genes at desired locations. By knocking out specific genes, maize researchers can better understand that gene's purpose. Such a tool could help scientists understand how drought or salt tolerance works or find lines that are more efficient at water and nitrogen uptake, for example.

Susan McCouch, Cornell professor of plant breeding and genetics, leads a team that received a four-year, $6.9 million grant to explore natural variation in wild and cultivated rice varieties as the basis for accelerating the process of plant breeding to enhance the productivity and sustainability of rice production throughout the world.

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