PSS’s Benildo de los Reyes targets rice salinity tolerance in new USDA study
By: Norman Martin
Benildo de los Reyes, an internationally recognized molecular geneticist within Texas Tech University's Department of Plant & Soil Science, has been awarded a $649,999 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant aimed at setting the foundations for the new genetic approaches that will create novel adaptive traits for the marginalized environments of the 21st century agriculture.
“The project will deviate from the commonly used reductionist approach of functional genomics by marrying the classic science of plant breeding with modern omics-guided systems biology to create new agronomic traits for crops, above and beyond what has been created by the Green Revolution of the 20th century,” said Reyes, who serves as a Department of Plant & Soil Science Professor of Plant Genomics and is the university's Bayer CropScience Chair.
The three-year project is titled “Genetic and physiological novelties for salinity tolerance in rice created by transgressive segregation.” The research project is supported by the intramural research program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food & Agriculture, and the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative's Physiology of Agricultural Plants Program.
One of the primary goals of the study is to develop a comprehensive and integrative approach to genetics that includes digital analysis of plant growth, development, and morphology, profiling of the changes in gene expression, and analysis of gene function by transgenics and gene editing.
Using a modern approach to the dissection of the genetic and physiological bases of traits, Reyes will take a much deeper look on the classic genetic phenomenon of transgressive segregation in plants. This phenomenon will be used as the core component of a holistic strategy to create novel ideotypes for the next generation of rice varieties with robust yield under environments affected by salinity and marginalized water resources. The outcome of the project is expected to create another shift in plant breeding paradigm that will be applicable not only to rice but also in other crops of primary importance to the U.S. agriculture and for ensuring global food security.
“One of the risks with -omics research is the separation of the technology from traditional genetics and plant breeding,” said Glen Ritchie, chair of the Texas Tech Department of Plant & Soil Science. “Dr. de los Reyes, as a leader in this field, is fundamentally improving both opportunities through this work.”
Reyes joined the Tech faculty in 2015, after rising through the academic ranks at the University of Maine's School of Biology and Ecology, and Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. He received his doctorate in plant science with a concentration in cellular and molecular biology from Oklahoma State University.
The Texas Tech grant is part of a National Institute of Food & Agriculture effort to support 22 projects with almost $12 million for research to improve plant production, which is critical to the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. Future improvements to production systems require a better understanding of interrelated factors affecting agricultural plants and their nutritional quality, water- and nutrient-use efficiency, and resilience to climate variability. The program supports research that addresses these needs at the molecular, cellular, biochemical and whole-organism levels.
Officials noted that the Agriculture & Food Research Initiative's Physiology of Agricultural Plants program area priority advances research to improve plant production, which is critical to the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. Future improvements to production systems require a better understanding of interrelated factors affecting agricultural plants and their nutritional quality, water- and nutrient-use efficiency, and resilience to climate variability. The program supports research that addresses these needs at the molecular, cellular, biochemical and whole-organism levels.
CONTACT: Benildo de los Reyes, Professor, Department of Plant & Soil Science, Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-4621 or email@example.com
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Editor: Norman Martin
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