Water is an increasingly scarce resource for agriculture thus engineering plants that use water efficiently is a primary goal forscientists. A recent approach in achieving water-efficient crops is to breed or engineer plants that can rapidly open and close their stomata in changing environments (Lawson and Blatt 2014, Raven 2014). During the day, plants may become shaded or enjoy a sudden but transient increase in sunlight as sun angles change (or are reflected) or as clouds and/or other obstacles block the sun.
Armored scale insects include many destructive pests of orchard crops, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture, costing an estimated two billion dollars per year in the US. They also have an extraordinary tendency to be invasive. As of 2005, the US had 132 species of armored scale insects introduced from other countries, comprising fully 40% of armored scale species in the US. Most of these (64%) were considered pests. About one new invasive diaspidid species is detected in the U.S. every year.
Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) is a crucial ecological and economic component of forests in the eastern U.S. and Canada. In the southeastern U.S., white pine is an especially critical associate of forests in the Appalachian Mountains as hemlock trees have been in decline due to the exotic hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae).
The micronutrient iron (Fe) is essential for photosynthesis, respiration, and many other processes, but Fe is only sparingly soluble in aqueous solution, making adequate acquisition by plants a serious challenge. Fe is a limiting factor for plant growth on approximately 30% of the world's arable lands. Furthermore, iron is highly reactive and, if over-accumulated, can cause cellular damage.
Working both on farms and in managed pollinator habitats, I will determine how local plant diversity and abundance and surrounding landscape use shape (a) bee diversity and (b) pollination service to crops. Each of these responses requires a substantial amount of work to assess and may be conducted in separate years.In addition, I will continue to examine the factors that contribute to pollinator health in agricultural contexts.
Many bee pollinators are in decline, and exposure to diseases has been implicated as one of the potential causes Novel work in my lab found that consuming sunflower pollen dramatically reduced bumble bee infection by a gut pathogen. These are exciting results, but at this point we have established this effect only in the lab, with a single sunflower variety, one bumble bee species, and one pathogen species.
Current agricultural practices on available arable land will not meet the nutritional needs of a population that will reach nine billion people by the middle of this century (Ray et al. 2013). In parallel, climate change will increase extreme weather events, including drought (Dai, 2011, Trenberth et al., 2014), and continued urbanization of farmland is eliminating arable land (Song et al. 2015). There is a clear need for sustainable agricultural innovations that can increase yields and provide food security without incurring environmental degradation.
Current agricultural practices on available arable land will not meet the nutritional needs of a population that will soon exceed nine billion people. In parallel, climate change is increasing extreme weather events, and continued urbanization of farmland is eliminating arable land. There is a clear need for sustainable agricultural innovations that can increase yields and provide food security while mitigating environmental degradation. In recent years interest has grown in harnessing the beneficial associations that soil microbes can form with plants to improve agricultural outcomes.
To determine how overproduction of nicotianamine causes enhanced iron in grain, we will overexpress the Nicotianamine Synthase (NAS) gene in four distinct ways. First, we will overexpress the gene in all cells and tissues. This strategy works well in other cereal species, but has not been tested in corn. Next, we will express NAS in a phloem-specific, maternal transfer tissue-specific, and filial transfer tissue-specific manner.