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Local researcher awarded $1.3 million to study corn genetics

(via Flickr/Alternative Heat)

The National Science Foundation has awarded a local researcher $1.3 million to study the genetics of how corn plants take up nutrients.

The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of fertilizer needed to grow the ubiquitous crop.

Ivan Baxter, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research scientist and assistant member at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, will lead the research.

The research projectwill use a genetic database called the Nested Association Mapping (NAM) population to identify genes controlling the chemical composition of corn (maize). Baxter’s research will seek to understand how different corn genes interact with mineral nutrients and toxic elements from various soil types and conditions.

"The USDA-ARS lab at the Danforth Center can rapidly analyze large genetic populations of the diverse staple crop with the statistically powerful resource of Nested Association Mapping,” said Baxter. “The grant addresses issues critical for agriculture, the environment and human health and will further our understanding of how soil conditions affect the elemental composition of maize.”

The research will involve collaboration with the University of Minnesota, Purdue University and Cornell University.

The three-year grant will also support training opportunities for new and aspiring U.S. scientists, teachers, and international scientists.