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Scientist Wins Top Regional Research Honor
By Marcia Wood
February 12, 2003
BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb.
12--Discoveries about the genetic makeup of Great Basin wildrye, bluebunch
wheatgrass, and other rangeland grasses in the American West have netted a top
regional research honor for Utah scientist Steven R. Larson.
A research geneticist with the Agricultural Research Services
Forage and Range Research
Laboratory in Logan, Larson has been named the Early Career Research
Scientist of 2002" for the agencys Northern Plains Area. In addition
to Utah, the Northern Plains Area includes Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agricultures chief
scientific research agency.
The Early Career award is given to scientists who have been with
ARS for no more than seven years, and who received their highest academic
degree within the past 10 years. Larson and other top ARS scientists were
recognized in an awards ceremony today at the agencys
Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural
Research Center here.
Dr. Larsons investigations are revealing new information about
genetic diversity--the extent to which plants within a species vary in their
'expression of traits, such as how quickly their seeds sprout, said
Edward B. Knipling, acting ARS administrator. In addition, Dr.
Larsons studies about inheritance of this and other key traits have been
invaluable to colleagues who are breeding new generations of native and
Dr. Larsons research results also help specialists with other
agencies and organizations concerned with rangeland health and
productivity Knipling added.
In earlier work with the Agricultural Research Service, Larson played a key
role in tracking the inheritance of genes that control the amount of a
compound, known as phytic acid, in corn, barley, and rice. The work is a boon
to humans, livestock and the environment. Thats because phytic acid, a
form of phosphorus, can interfere with uptake of other nutrients essential to
people and animals.
Larsons discoveries about the structure of a low-phytic acid gene
called LPA-1 sped the development of the worlds first breeding
material for low-phytic acid barley and rice. These grains have a higher amount
of digestible forms of phosphorus than conventional barley and rice. That could
reduce the amount of indigestible phosphorus that could otherwise end up in the
animals manure. Excess phosphorus from manure might eventually pollute
streams, lakes or rivers.
Larson received his bachelor of science degree in biology from the
University of North Dakota in 1988, his master of science in genetics from the
University of Minnesota in 1990, and his doctorate in crop science from Montana
State University in 1995.
He began working with ARS in 1995 at Aberdeen, Idaho, then joined the Logan
laboratory in 1998.