OCAST Awards Plant Research Funding
Seven Applicants, including Two OK EPSCoR Researchers, Qualify for Awards
in OCAST Plant Science Research Program
Seven researchers, representing the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, proved successful in their quests for funding from the OCAST Plant Science Research program. Two of the researchers, Laura Bartley and Mali Mahalingam, are members of the OK EPSCoR biofuels research team. The projects collectively were awarded $655,509 for up to two years of research.
Officials at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology said the winning applicants were chosen from a field of 31. Independent peer reviewers approved another 20 applicants for funding; however, the agency has money only for the first seven ranked projects.
All seven of the awarded contracts represent basic research.
Plant science research targets those research activities occurring in higher education, nonprofit research institutions and private enterprises. The projects have potential commercial application and concern plant productivity, renewable biomass, plant-based environmental applications and chemical platforms, plant-based solutions to improve nutrition, human and/or animal health or performance, process applications and seed management and the development of new products and services that shall form the basis of new, high-technology plant science/agriculture industry for Oklahoma.
Successful applicants include:
- Molecular Biology – Rujin Chen, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Title: Elucidating the regulatory mechanism controlling dissected leaf architecture in Medicago truncatula. This research project aims to find the regulatory mechanism that controls the structure of dissected compounds (leaves) and growth of petioles in Medicago truncatula for improvements in alfalfa as a forage legume. Knowledge gained from this project may lead to improvements of elite alfalfa cultivars for high density production and improved profitability for farmers and ranchers. Award: $100,000
- Seeds – Jerome Verdier, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Title: Functional genomics of legume seed size/yield. Food security is a major issue and legumes rank second only to cereal grasses in importance to humans as a source of food, feed for livestock and raw materials for industry. This project aims to functionally characterize four independent mutant lines displaying significant changes in seed size. Benefits could include increased seed yield, with proteins, lipids or health-promoting secondary metabolites stored in legume seeds. Award: $95,500
- Genomics and Genetics – Laura Bartley, University of Oklahoma. Title: Systems analysis of cell wall remodeling during grass lateral root emergence. This research is an attempt to identify the cell wall and transcriptional changes that occur to permit lateral root emergence in rice. Findings could impact the production of cereals in agriculture, possibly through lower input cropping. Award: $99,983
- Plant Bioinformatics – Rakesh Kaundal, Oklahoma State University. Title: iPMNET – A bioinformatics system for predicting genome-wide plant-microbe interactions network. The purpose of this proposal is to develop a bioinformatics-based system, including a visualization tool, for predicting a genome-wide plant-microbe interactions network. These represent destructive pathogen-induced diseases which cost the U.S. $33 billion each year. This project will help in the plant-microbe protein-protein interactions prediction process. Award: $100,000
- Molecular Biology – Ramamurthy Mahalingam, Oklahoma State University. Title: Role of RNA binding protein AtRBP45b during abiotic stresses. Abiotic and biotic stresses cause nearly a 60 percent reduction in yields of crop plants. It is thought that gene expression in response to various stresses of plants is a factor in crop yield issues. This researcher has identified a sub-family of Arabidopsis RNA binding proteins that are induced during oxidative stress. The goal is to understand the precise role of AtRBP45b during stress signaling. The overall research could prove to be a vital contribution for enhancing food security in the context of global climate change. Award: $100,000
- Natural Products – Niels Maness, Oklahoma State University. Title: Extracting value from eastern red cedar foliage. The project goal is to evaluate eastern red cedar and its leaves as a source of phytochemicals, in order to build value for removal of the species from Oklahoma lands. Scalable phytochemical extraction alternatives and yields for essential oils, oleoresin oils and podophyllotoxin (a cancer drug precursor) could provide the financial backing to better control of eastern red cedar, long considered an undesirable plant for farmers and ranchers. Award: $99,282
- Whole Plant Physiology – Michael Smith, Oklahoma State University. Title: Pecan kernel necrosis – Finding the cause. Necrotic lesions at the basal (stem) end of Pawnee pecan kernels is a serious problem limiting the marketability of a popular cultivar grown in Oklahoma. The necrosis was first thought to be limited to the Red River basin in Oklahoma; however, it has spread as far away as the Rio Grande Valley near El Paso. Investigating five different approaches, this research will attempt to find the cause of the necrosis and develop a solution. Award: $60,744
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