Guiltinan-Maximova Lab

We perform research to discover new knowledge and technologies useful for the improvement of crops, with a long-term vision to contribute to poverty and hunger alleviation, development of sustainable agricultural systems, and the reduction of the impacts of agriculture on climate change.

We believe that Agricultural Biotechnology is one of the best tools that can be used to positively impact these needs on a meaningful scale. We have a focus on the use of Arabidopsis and other model species to advance research with crops such as maize, wheat, soybean, apple, Theobroma cacao, (The Chocolate Tree) and Jatropha curcus, a biofuel feedstock plant. Our current focus is exclusively on cacao.

Our Core Research Areas:

  • Plant Development
  • Regulation of Gene Expression
  • Mechanisms of Plant Defense Responses
  • Key Metabolic Pathways
  • Genetic Transformation
  • Starch Biosynthesis
  • Crop Improvement

Dr. Guiltinan and Maximova collaborate on most of the projects in the lab and work together to supervise and administer all of the projects. The lab has been active at Penn State since 1991 as part of the Penn State Department of Horticulture. The lab is currently housed in the Plant Science Center on the 4th floor of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences Building.

Please join our Facebook Group for periodic updates on news and publications!

Latest News

June 26, 2024

Researchers compile Cacao Gene Atlas to help plant breeders boost chocolate tree

Cacao, the chocolate tree, is one of the world’s most important economic crops, generating hundreds of billions of dollars annually. However, cocoa is affected by a range of pests and diseases, with some estimates putting losses as high as 30% to 40% of global production. Now, a team led by researchers at Penn State has created a genetic information resource to help plant breeders develop resistant strains of cacao that can be grown sustainably in its native Amazon and elsewhere, such as the tropical latitudes of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.

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June 7, 2024

Penn State Cacao and Chocolate Research Network Host Agroforest Workshop

A collaborative effort between Penn State University and the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE) inspired a successful workshop that charted future interdisciplinary activities on developing agroforestry systems for sustainable and climate-resilient solutions and ecosystem conservation in Latin America.

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October 16, 2023

Grants Awarded to Penn State Faculty for Tropical Ecosystems Research in Belize

Three projects have been awarded seed grants as part of the Penn State-Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education initiative. Faculty and students from Penn State will research agricultural and ecological sustainability, preservation of tropical rainforest ecosystems, and sustainable development in Belize.

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October 2, 2023

Cadmium contamination in cacao farms of Piura, North Peru: A comprehensive assessment of geogenic and anthropogenic sources and implications for future production

Cadmium (Cd) is a heavy metal that poses a threat to food safety via the ingestion of food products with Cd. The uptake of Cd by the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) has gained attention after the European Union set limits for Cd in chocolate products, the main commodity produced from cacao beans. In this study, we analyzed levels of Cd in soils and plant tissues across five cacao farms in the Piura region of Peru to identify the origins of Cd accumulation, and the natural and human factors controlling its concentration

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