Our Projects

By leveraging the expertise of our core members and their wide-reaching collaborative networks, we are able to participate in many impactful plant and agricultural projects.

Crops for a diverse Alabama agricultural economy

All five Plant Center core members, along with collaborators from Auburn University’s departments of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences and Entomology and Plant Pathology, and Alabama A&M’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station, are working together to develop better agriculture seed varieties to produce healthier and more productive crops. The goal of the project is to use the power of genomics and plant breeding to introduce new, improved agricultural crops in Alabama.

Creating more nitrogen efficient sorghum

Nitrogen plays an important role in the health and growth of plants. Without nitrogen, plants are unable to produce the chlorophyll that makes it possible for them to photosynthesize, the process where plants use energy from the sun to break down water and carbon dioxide to form sugars. Plant Center members Kankshita Swaminathan, PhD, and Jeremy Schmutz, along with collaborators from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Alabama A&M University were awarded an NSF grant for their research efforts into understanding nitrogen uptake mechanisms in sorghum, while also increasing workforce diversity in agricultural research.

Creating low aflatoxin peanuts

Plant Center member Josh Clevenger, PhD, and a team at Mars, Incorporated aim to tackle two related problems in peanuts, aflatoxins and drought tolerance. Aflatoxins are a group of toxins that can contaminate agricultural crops like peanuts, tree nuts, maize, and grains. In humans, the toxins can lead to liver cancer and severe damage to the liver. Clevenger and his team are using genomics and computational tools to identify genetic markers that confer drought tolerance during late growing season stress.

Investigating duckweed’s promise as a biomass crop

Duckweed has several characteristics, such as its fast growth rate and short doubling time, that make it a promising candidate as a biomass crop, for both fuel and feed production. Plant Center member Alex Harkess, PhD, along with many other collaborators, are constructing a species tree that describes relationships between all 37 duckweed species. This will help the team understand how traits like rapid reproduction have evolved and changed over time, as well as the genes that might influence those traits.

Towards more sustainable switchgrass

The Department of Energy (DOE) designated switchgrass a promising candidate for biofuel, renewable fuel that is produced from the biomass of plants. Plant Center members Jane Grimwood, PhD, Jeremy Schmutz, and Kankshita Swaminathan, PhD, are part of a multinational team of researchers that have been studying the genome of switchgrass for over a decade. Their goal is to create plants that can survive across a range of environments while still producing a large amount of biomass that can be turned into biofuel.

Collaborate with us

HudsonAlpha aims to leverage the synergy between discovery, education, medicine, and economic development in genomic sciences to improve the human condition around the globe. The Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture is just one of the ways we are trying to reach our goal of improving life. To join forces with us at HudsonAlpha, contact us to see how we can collaborate together. To see a few of the other areas where we are collaborating with others, go to: hudsonalpha.org/agriculture/.