Rice and peanut improvement through molecular genetics and genomic tools
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Rice is cultivated worldwide and a staple food for nearly half of humanity. The United States is a major rice exporter, with nearly half of its rice production being exported. Rice in the U.S. is primarily produced by five states in the South: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, as well as California. Texas rice production contributes to about 5% to 7% of the rice supply in the US, with more than 95% being long grain rice for domestic and export markets. This totals nearly 500 million to 4 billion to the Unites States economy yearly and Americans spend nearly 135,439,000. Peanut production, however, was often hampered by diseases including leafspot, stem rot and pod rot, insects and abiotic stresses, such as drought, and weed invasion. Improvements of production costs, nutrition and overall quality have also been important issues. Food allergies are also on the rise, including allergy to peanuts products, which in the U.S. affects 2% to 10% children.At the same time, with the advances in genomics technologies and next generation sequencing, new opportunities to speed up crop improvement have arisen. A wealth of rice germplasm in the genebanks worldwide are ready to be tapped for rice improvement, which is composed of 21 wild and 2 domesticatedspecies and 10 distinct genome types. On the other hand, cultivated peanut has a very narrow genetic base; however, wild diploid Arachis are highly diverse which provides a rich source of variation for useful agronomic traits and tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses. This project will use genomics tools towards improving rice andpeanuts. These strategies include using diverse or exotic germpaslm in ourresearch to identify novel genes/alleles through DNA maker-trait association, genome-wide gene expression studies to identify genes/pathways associated with the traits of interest,and/or genome editing by cutting the target genomic sequence to either abolish the function of the gene to validateits function or to replace the specific gene with a better one to improve the traits of interest.This project will work towards the following goals: (i) to help stabilize yield production of direct-seeded rice both in Texas and globally; (ii) to help safeguard rice production and food security worldwide; (iii) to improve rice grain quality as premium market in the U.S. and globally; and (iv) to improve peanuts crop productivity and economic competitiveness for Texas and the southern U.S.