Public Release: 

NSF boosts funding for plant genome research

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 24 new grants totaling more than $71 million over the next five years for plant genome research. These awards will be shared by 109 investigators at 39 institutions in 27 states.

The latest grants bring NSF's total investment in the National Plant Genome Research Program to more than $215 million. Many of these new projects build upon research success from the previous three years of the program.

For example, when NSF began this program in 1998, only about 3,100 segments of DNA, known as expressed sequence tags (ESTs), were identified in corn and available in the public databases. Now, 106,595 ESTs are identified in corn and another 285,925 in soybeans.

"There has been an enormous growth in information on plant genomes. The new awards are building on these recent accomplishments and will help increase our understanding of the basic life processes in plants, which can, in the long term, provide the underpinning for advances in plant biotechnology," said Dr. Mary E. Clutter, NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences.

The overall plant genome research program was designed to build an understanding of the structure and function of plant genes important to agriculture, environmental management, energy and health. Individual research projects seek to understand, at the whole genome scale, how plants grow and what controls important plant traits. The research awards support studies of economically important crops like barley, cotton, corn, rice, sorghum, soybean and tomato.

Some of the new projects will focus on innovative methods for gene discovery and characterization. These include the development of homologous gene replacement, massively parallel signature sequencing and mutations induced by transposons.

Scientists will investigate the genetic control of form and function in flowers, from flowering to seed production. Projects will characterize the genes controlling the differentiation of flower cells and examine genes that play a central role in development of plant features.

Other research will investigate the complex gene networks that regulate plant response to environmental conditions such as: drought, disease, temperature and flowering time.

The growing field of bioinformatics will be critical to processing the volumes of data from the Plant Genome Research Program. Two new NSF awards are focused on developing tools to accurately manipulate the data and make it accessible to the wider community. Researchers will develop new computer algorithms to process data and new interfaces for scientific manipulation of the data.


Attachment: List of Plant Genome Awards


For complete listing of the awards and collaborations, see:

Boyce Thompson Institute, $3,995,267/4 yr; PI: Johnathan Comstock
University of California Berkeley, $5,343,199/5 yr; PI: Sarah Hake
University of California Berkeley, $1,532,663/5 yr; PI: Peggy Lemaux
University of California Davis, $5,803,691/4 yr; PI: Douglas Cook
University of California Davis, $471,134/1 yr; PI: Deborah Delmer
University of California Davis, $952,441/2 yr; PI: Blake Meyer
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, $1,990,821/4 yr; PI: Robert Martienssen
Cornell University, $1,365,830/3 yr; PI: Susan McCouch
Cornell University, $6,499,895/5 yr; PI:. Tanksley, Steven
University of Georgia, $1,132,318/4 yr; PI: Peggy Ozias-Akins
University of Georgia, $3,962,498/4 yr; PI:. Andrew Paterson
University of Georgia, $3,576,195/3 yr; PI: Lee Pratt
Iowa State University, $648,549/3 yr; PI: Thomas Peterson
Iowa State University, $4,227,981/5 yr; PI: Kan Wang
Iowa State University, $158,996/2 yr; PI: Volker Brendel
Kansas State University, $500,000/2 yr; PI: Jan Leach
Michigan State University, $5,072,963/5 yr; PI: Michael Thomashow
University of Minnesota Twin Cities, $3,081,245/4 yr; PI: Ronald Phillips
University of Missouri Columbia, $2,339,813/3 yr; PI: Kathleen Newton
North Carolina State University, $5,860,002/4 yr; PI: Ralph Dean
Pennsylvania State University, $7,399,286/5 yr; PI: Claude DePamphilis
University of Utah, $1,564,877/3 yr; PI: Gary Drews
VA Polytechnic Inst & State University, $3,587,432/4 yr; PI: Pedro
Yale University, $435,432/2 yr; PI: Vivian Irish

Media contact: Andrea M. Dietrich, 703-292-8070,

Program contacts: Christopher Cullis, 703-292-8470, Jane Silverthorne, 703-292-8470;

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.