Department of Plant Science

Offering Penn State degrees in agroecology, golf course turfgrass management, horticulture, landscape contracting, and turfgrass science.

Plant Science News

Penn State alumnus hits a homerun as head groundskeeper for minor league team
September 3, 2020
Penn State alumnus Jordan Barr is living his “field of dreams” as head groundskeeper for the Burlington Bees, a Los Angeles Angels-affiliated baseball team in southeastern Iowa.
Lead researcher Barbara Baraibar, who was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Plant Sciences when the study was conducted, collects cover crop samples.
Cover crop mixtures must be 'farm-tuned' to provide maximum ecosystem services
August 17, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State researchers, in a recent study, were surprised to learn that they could take the exact same number of seeds from the same plants, put them in agricultural fields across the Mid-Atlantic region and get profoundly different stands of cover crops a few months later. The study came to be known as “‘farm-tuning’ cover crop mixtures,” noted researcher Jason Kaye, professor of soil biogeochemistry, who added that the findings are significant because they show the need to customize cover crop mixes to achieve desired ecosystem services, depending on soil and climatic conditions. Cover crop mixtures comprised of multiple species planted in rotation between cash crops provide a suite of benefits — such as erosion reduction, weed control, and adding carbon and nitrogen to the soil. But it turns out, the expression of species in a mixture can differ greatly across locations.
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.”