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Logan Scientist Wins Top Regional Research HonorBy 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 naturalized plants.
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.