I-OMAP seeks to sequence all 23 rice species. "We're essentially trying to tear apart the whole genus, to understand it better and to come up with a parts list that can be used to design a greener rice," Wing said. "I'm optimistic that we can do this. I think we pretty much have to."
Wing, Rounsley, and the other I-OMAP researchers' work could ultimately also be applied to improving other domesticated grasses such as wheat, corn and sorghum.
"Rice is often used as a model for understanding how plants adapt to different environments," Rounsley said, because the rice genome is simpler than that of other crop plants. "Once you understand the genes in rice, you can do similar work with more difficult crops."
The grant has a strong outreach component not only graduate and postdoctoral students, but also UA undergraduates and Tucson high school students will help sequence the West African rice genome.
Rounsley said they'll rely on existing BIO5 programs to bring in these students. "We wouldn't have been able to do it without BIO5," Rounsley said. "We're benefiting from our previous investment there." Both Wing and Rounsley see working with undergraduates and high school students as an important investment in training future researchers.
Those researchers will be needed, according to Wing and Rounsley. "We're all trying to solve a major world issue and prevent starvation in the future," Wing said. "This is a looming problem facing all of humankind."
Rounsley added, "By studying a variety of crops in a variety of environments all of agriculture can benefit. It's a matter of casting the net wide to get information about how plants deal with their environments, and then translating that into real applications."<
|Contact: Deborah Daun|
University of Arizona