Department of Plant Science

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Plant Science News

Researchers collecting soil associated with roots of different sorghum lines (after frost). These soil samples were then subjected to sequencing for the identification of microbes. Seen here are graduate students.
Flavonoids' presence in sorghum roots may lead to frost-resistant crop
August 12, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Flavonoid compounds — produced by the roots of some sorghum plants — positively affect soil microorganisms, according to Penn State researchers, who suggest the discovery is an early step in developing a frost-resistant line of the valuable crop for North American farmers. That is important because sorghum is a crop that can respond to climate change because of its high water- and nitrogen-use efficiency, according to Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics, and Mary Ann Bruns, professor of soil microbiology. A close relative to corn, it is the fifth most valuable cereal crop globally.
https://news.psu.edu/story/624863/2020/07/06/research/antioxidants-corn-line-could-aid-human-ibd-protection-therapy
Antioxidants in corn line could aid human IBD protection, therapy
July 8, 2020
NIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Flavonoids from a specific line of corn act as anti-inflammatory agents in the guts of mice with an inflammatory-bowel-disease-like condition, according to a team of researchers who said flavonoid-rich corn should be studied to determine its potential to provide a protective effect on human health. The researchers bred a novel line of corn at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center to produce compounds called flavan-4-ols. The team then conducted an experiment with mice to judge the effect of those powerful antioxidant compounds on induced inflammation of the colon. “In this study, we utilized two corn lines­ — one containing flavan-4-ols and one lacking flavan-4-ols — to investigate the anti-inflammatory property of that flavonoid,” said Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State. “They are near isogenic lines, meaning that their genetic makeups are identical except for a few specific genetic loci that are responsible for generation of the flavonoids.”
Sunset over a northern Illinois cornfield ... The shift doesn’t mean that Iowa and Illinois will stop producing crops, but it might mean that farmers in those states will adapt to a warmer climate producing two crops in a year or a different mix of crops
Warming Midwest conditions may result in corn, soybean production moving north
May 4, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If warming continues unabated in the Midwest, in 50 years we can expect the best conditions for corn and soybean production to have shifted from Iowa and Illinois to Minnesota and the Dakotas, according to Penn State researchers. Using machine learning — a form of artificial intelligence that enables a computer system to learn from data — the team considered more than three decades of county-level, crop-yield data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service for 18 states in the central region of the United States. That area produces the majority of these crops. The researchers evaluated crop yields along with weather data. They considered fundamental climate variables to find yield predictors specific to each of the crop-growing phases. The study also analyzed the relationships between climate and corn, sorghum and soybean grain yield from 1980 to 2016.
The seed grants are supporting 47 projects aimed at preventing and treating COVID-19 and creating tools that address the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.Image: Fusion Medical Animation, Unsplash
Seed grants jump-start 47 interdisciplinary teams to conduct COVID-19 research
April 15, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With speed and ingenuity, more than 100 researchers across Penn State are shifting their research programs to address the COVID-19 crisis, thanks to funding from a seed grant initiative led by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. In total, the initiative awarded $2.25 million to 47 teams of researchers from three campuses, 10 colleges and more than 25 departments. “I am inspired by the nimbleness of our faculty to transition their research programs toward finding solutions,” said Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. “Our infrastructure at Penn State facilitates this transition. For example, the University houses a high-security BSL-3 laboratory that enables in vitro drug testing, as well as facilities for conducting genomics, metabolomics, fermentation and cryogenic electron microscopy, among many other features.”