Swarupa Mandal — a fourth-year Ph.D. student under Dr. Benildo de los Reyes — has been awarded a 2021 Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Southern Graduate Student Grant to support his research into the genetic and epigenetic interactions of rice.
The $16,500 grant, which runs from September 2021 to August 2023, was approved to fund Mandal's proposal titled "Harnessing the wild relatives of rice for novel adaptive phenotypes: Genetics and breeding for agricultural sustainability beyond the Green Revolution". The project aims to increase sustainable rice production in the southern US — where salinity is a major limiting factor — using genetic contributions hidden in the wild progenitors of cultivated rice.
“I want to investigate more about the genome, epigenome, and environment interaction to develop new crop varieties with higher yields to cope with current and potential environmental conditions. My ultimate aim is to aid in the promotion of global food security,” says Mandal. “I grew up around rice fields, and it's something I've always wanted to work with. I am thankful to Professor de los Reyes for the opportunity in his lab to follow my passion in the field of genetics.”
The SARE program is a decentralized competitive grants and education program which has supported farmers, ranchers, researchers and educators who are improving the sustainability of U.S. agriculture since 1988.
The main objective of the Graduate Student Grants is to prepare the next generation of scientists in researching sustainable solutions to the challenges facing farmers and ranchers, and to prepare young professionals to work together with other scientists, educators, and farmers to test sustainable ag theories in real-world, on-farm situations.