Texas Tech University

Research Highlight: Mark Burow

Research Focus

Peanuts are an important crop on the Southern High Plains of Texas. Dr. Mark Burow's research focus is the improvement of seed quality of peanuts grown in West Texas, reduction of production costs due to water usage and disease, and development and use of molecular tools to assist in peanut improvement. Advances in molecular genetics are proving useful for medicine, criminology, and plant breeding. Molecular markers are being used for breeding new peanut varieties. Unlike genetically-modified organisms (GMO's), in which foreign genes are transferred through test-tube manipulation, molecular markers do not modify a plant genetically. Instead, they are a diagnostic tool, a type of gene fingerprint. For peanut breeding, markers are used to identify individuals possessing or lacking specific genes for useful traits, for example, nematode resistance. Markers can allow selection of resistant plants even when disease pressure is absent.

Importance of Graduate Students

Graduate students represent the future for the science of plant genetics, whether as future scientists or agricultural practitioners. "Being able to work with good graduate students, helping them develop their critical thinking skills, bringing more minds to address an issue or question, helps get more accomplished," Burow says.

Research Future

Dr Mark Burow believes that most of his future research will be in collaborative projects, including working on development of disease-resistant and abiotic stress-tolerant germplasm to reduce the costs of production to growers. In addition, he hopes that discovery and deployment of molecular markers will improve the efficiency of plant breeding.

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