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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

Scientists debunk potential link to crop cold tolerance

When temperatures drop, the enzyme Rubisco that fuels plant growth and yield gets sluggish. Many crops compensate by producing more Rubisco; however, scientists speculated that some crops may lack space in their leaves to boost the production of this enzyme, making them more susceptible to cold. A new study from the University of Illinois and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology refutes this theory but found these crops are far from reaching their photosynthetic potential.

Cassava breeding hasn’t improved photosynthesis or yield potential

Cassava is a staple in the diet of more than one billion people across 105 countries, yet this “orphaned crop” has received little attention compared to popular crops like corn and soybeans. While advances in breeding have helped cassava withstand pests and diseases, cassava yields no more today than it did in 1963. Corn yields, by comparison, have more than doubled.

Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought

Agriculture already monopolizes 90 percent of global freshwater—yet production still needs to dramatically increase to feed and fuel this century’s growing population. For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 percent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, as reported in Nature Communications.

DOE grants $10.6 million to produce more biodiesel, biojet fuel

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the University of Illinois a $10.6 million, five-year grant to transform two of the most productive crops in America into sustainable sources of biodiesel and biojet fuel. The new research project Renewable Oil Generated with Ultra-productive Energycane—or ROGUE—kicks off on Feb. 25 with a team meeting held in conjunction with the 2018 Genomic Sciences Program Annual Principal Investigator Meeting in Tysons, Virginia.

Five Illinois researchers rank among world’s most influential

Five faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2017 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list (previously known as the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list), including four from the IGB.

The list recognizes “leading researchers in the sciences and social sciences from around the world,” according to Clarivate Analytics.  It is based on an analysis of journal article publication and citation data, an objective measure of a researcher’s influence, from 2005-15.

Giant reed is a photosynthetic outlier, study finds

Arundo donax, a giant reed that grows in the Mediterranean climate zones of the world, isn’t like other prolific warm-weather grasses, researchers report. This grass, which can grow annually to 6 meters (nearly 20 feet) in height, uses a type of photosynthesis that is more common to crop plants like soybeans, rice and peanuts.

The new findings are published in Scientific Reports, a Nature publishing group journal.

University of Illinois Awarded $3.1M Grant from DOE ARPA-E

The University of Illinois announced that it has been awarded a 2-year, $3.1 million grant from the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The U. of I. will be the lead institution on the Mobile Energy-crop Phenotyping Platform (MEPP), working in partnership with researchers from Cornell University and Signetron Inc.

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