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News Release 16-132

NSF awards $44 million for genomic research on range of plants, many economically important

Grants will fund plant research relevant to science and society

A genome-level approach to balancing the vitamins in maize, or corn, grain is a PGRP project.

A genome-level approach to balancing the vitamins in maize, or corn, grain is a PGRP project.

October 20, 2016

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

To advance the basic science needed to improve agricultural practices, reduce demands on environmental resources, and address climate change challenges, the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) has awarded new grants totaling $44 million.

"For almost two decades, the PGRP has accelerated basic knowledge in plant genomics, with broad relevance to the scientific research community and to society," says James Olds, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences. "These awards will continue to break new ground in understanding the biological principles needed to solve environmental and food security challenges today and in the future."

New directions in plant genomics research, and advances in technology and bioinformatics, have enabled scientists to address basic questions and achieve a systems-level understanding of economically-important plants and plant processes. That understanding is critical to achieving goals such as crop improvement.

PGRP awardees will investigate subjects such as the gene regulatory networks required to make soybean seeds; achieving a genome-level understanding of seed biochemistry that will lead to balancing the vitamin content of maize, or corn, grain; discovering how perennial crops adapt and become resilient to climate change; leveraging natural variance in tomatoes to find new sources of disease resistance; and defining the epigenetic (external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off) variations in long-lived trees.

"The large-scale data produced by PGRP awardees are usable, accessible, and of high impact across the biological sciences," says Jane Silverthorne, NSF deputy assistant director for Biological Sciences. "Training and career advancement in plant genomics are essential elements of scientific progress in this field."

There's a critical need, plant biologists say, for training in the use of new tools and technologies, especially for scientists with expertise in traditional plant biology fields such as plant anatomy, breeding, physiology and biochemistry.

New tools and methodologies are also needed to tackle questions that are difficult to answer with current approaches, and to help knowledge from the lab make its way into wider practice.

This year's PGRP grants support research on basic questions in plant science on a genome-wide scale; development of tools and resources for plant genome research, including new technologies; mid-career investigator research aimed at increasing participation of scientists trained primarily in fields other than plant genomics; and early career investigator research likely to interest scientists at the beginning stages of their careers in pursuing plant genome research.

NSF 2016 Plant Genome Research Program Awards

W. Brad Barbazuk, University of Florida: TOOLS-PGR: Alternative Splice Isoforms in Plant Genomes: Collection, Characterization and Evolutionary Relationships

James Birchler, University of Missouri-Columbia: RESEARCH-PGR: Genomic Balance Analysis in Maize

Steven Briggs, University of California-San Diego: RESEARCH-PGR: Discovery and Evaluation of Inbred-specific and Hybrid-specific Regulatory Modules

Thomas Brutnell, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center: RESEARCH-PGR: Dissecting the Genetic Networks Underlying Kranz Anatomy in C4 Grasses

Dean DellaPenna, Michigan State University: RESEARCH-PGR: A Genome-level Approach to Balancing the Vitamin Content of Maize Grain

Brent Ewers, University of Wyoming: RESEARCH: Predicting Genotypic Variation in Growth and Yield under Abiotic Stress through Biophysical Process Modeling

Wolf Frommer, Carnegie Institution of Washington: RESEARCH-PGR: SECRETome Project: Systematic Evaluation of CellulaR ExporT from plant cells

Robert Goldberg, University of California-Los Angeles: RESEARCH-PGR: Gene Regulatory Networks Required to Make a Soybean Seed

Mark Guiltinan, Pennsylvania State University: RESEARCH-PGR: Discovery and Functional Characterization of Genes Regulating Plant Immunity in Perennial Crops

Candice Hirsch, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities: ECA-PGR: Dissecting Natural Mechanisms for Genome Content Variation and the Impact on Phenotypic Variation

Jay Hollick, Ohio State University: RESEARCH-PGR: Transcriptional Control of the Maize Genome

David Jackson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: RESEARCH-PGR: Dissecting the Genomic Architecture of Functional Redundancy to Modulate Meristem Homeostasis and Crop Yields

Dylan Kosma, University of Nevada, Reno: ECA-PGR: Dissecting the Transcriptional Networks Underlying Plant Wound Suberin Biosynthesis

Robert Last, Michigan State University: RESEARCH-PGR: How do plants produce so many diverse metabolites: A computational and experimental comparative genomics investigation in the Solanaceae

Gregory Martin, Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research: RESEARCH-PGR: Leveraging Natural Variation in Tomato to Identify, Characterize, and Deploy New Sources of Disease Resistance

Paula McSteen, University of Missouri-Columbia: RESEARCH-PGR: Genomic and Synthetic Approaches Linking Auxin Signaling to Functional Domains in Maize

Allison Miller, Saint Louis University: RESEARCH-PGR: Adapting Perennial Crops for Climate Change: Graft Transmissible Effects of Rootstocks on Grapevine Shoots

Ray Ming, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: RESEARCH-PGR: Genomic mechanisms of domesticating a Y chromosome in papaya

Rebecca Mosher, University of Arizona: RESEARCH-PGR: Deciphering the link between RNA directed DNA methylation and reproduction in Brassicaceae

Wojciech Pawlowski,Cornell University: RESEARCH-PGR: Understanding Recombination in Maize

Michael Purugganan, New York University: RESEARCH-PGR: Systems Genomics of Rice Stress Adaptation

Seung Rhee, Carnegie Institution of Washington: TOOLS-PGR: Computational Infrastructure to Enable High-throughput, High-quality Annotations of Compartmentalized Metabolic Networks for Plant Genomes

Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra,University of California-Davis: RESEARCH-PGR: The Genetics of Highland Adaptation in Maize

Robert Schmitz, University of Georgia: ECA-PGR: Somatic Genetic and Epigenetic Variations in Long-lived Perennial Trees and their Interactions with the Environment

Venkatesan Sundaresan, University of California-Davis: RESEARCH-PGR: Zygotic Genome Activation in Rice

Michael Sussman, University of Wisconsin-Madison: RESEARCH PGR: An interdisciplinary approach to deciphering molecular signaling pathways controlling plant-symbiont associations in legumes and cereals

Christopher Topp, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center: An Integrated Phenomics Approach to Identifying the Genetic Basis for Maize Root Structure and Control of Plant Nutrient Relations

Richard Vierstra, Washington University: RESEARCH-PGR: Defining the Sumoylation System in Maize and Its Roles in Stress Protection

Eve Wurtele, Iowa State University: RESEARCH-PGR Orphan Genes: An Untapped Genetic Reservoir of Novel Traits Driving Evolutionary Adaptation and Crop Improvement


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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