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How to build a plant

Walking through a tropical or temperate forest immediately impresses us with the myriad forms and soaring structures of the plant world, but our knowledge of how plants are actually built, cell by cell, is still incomplete. Now, with data emerging from many genome sequencing projects, scientists have begun to unravel the details of plant architecture at the molecular level. This knowledge has implications for crop yield improvement, biofuel production, and materials science.

Dr. Sarah Hake and her colleagues, George Chuck, Hector Candela-Anton, Nathalie Bolduc, Jihyun Moon, Devin O'Connor, China Lunde, and Beth Thompson, have taken advantage of the information from sequenced grass genomes to study how the reproductive structures of maize are formed. Dr. Hake, of the Plant Gene Expression Center, USDA-ARS, who is the 2007 recipient of the Stephen Hales Prize, will be presenting this work at the opening Awards Symposium of the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mrida, Mexico (June 27, 3:10 PM).

Maize was first domesticated in the highlands of Mexico over 6,000 years ago and is now one of the most important crop plants in the world. It is a member of the grass family, which also hosts the world's other major crops including rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, and sugar cane. Maize has a rich genetic history, which has resulted in thousands of varieties or landraces. Scientists at CIMMYT, Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maz y Trigo, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, work to preserve the ancient varieties that represent adaptations to different environmental conditions such as different soils, temperature, altitude, and drought. These traits are expressions of different genes and groups of genes that scientists hope to utilize to keep up with changing climatic conditions and global food supply.

Dr. Hake and her colleagues have utilized this rich genetic history of maize to c

Contact: Sarah Hake
American Society of Plant Biologists

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