National Program 302: Plant Biological and Molecular Processes
NP302 - Projected Outcomes/Impacts
The structure, function, and regulation of agriculturally important genes in model and crop plants will be described.This knowledge will permit the rapid identification of genes in crop species and of the processes by which their activities are regulated, and it will provide the basis for integrating DNA structural and sequence information into an understanding of how plants function.The result will be more rapid and more effective genetic improvement.
The metabolic and genetic regulatory systems in plants that limit the rate of photosynthesis and of assimilate transfer into fruits and other harvestable products will be analyzed, and genetic modification will have begun.As a result of this work, over the long term, crop yields and quality will increase, and yields will become more stable despite environmental fluctuations.
Mechanisms of pest and disease resistance will be explained further, and critical limiting steps identified; the information will lead to development of improved crop plant resistance, crops with higher yields, and crops with less dependence upon chemical pesticides, all of which will result in lower risks to farmers.
Factors that confer tolerance to drought, flooding, heat, chilling, freezing temperatures, or soil acidity (or other organisms) will be identified, and work will be underway to transfer those traits to crops that are currently intolerant.The result will be more reliable yields, especially in highly variable climates or on marginal lands with acid subsoils.
Genes that influence fruit ripening and the processes that they control will be identified, and their expression will be modified in appropriate crop species.This research will lead to better production practices and improved timing of harvest, without risking loss of the crop from spoilage.
Genes that provide new sources of enhanced traits and product quality will be identified.This research will provide the basis for developing new feedstocks and for enhancing crop value for human nutrition and health benefits.
Natural products with useful biological activities will be identified from plants.The chemistry of these products will be described, and the mechanisms of their activities will be explained so that they can be useful in discovery programs for agricultural, pharmaceutical, nutritional, or other purposes.
New methods will be developed that assess and improve genetic engineering technology for crop species.Research to determine the risks of transgenic plants in the environment will be completed to generate data to guide regulatory decisions.New technologies will also improve the predictability and control of expression of specific transgenes and their localization in the host genome, enabling such advances as blocking or increasing their expression in plant tissues destined for human consumption.The result will be greatly enhanced ability to direct and control the process of genetic recombination for specific purposes; e.g., compounds that confer pest resistance can be excluded from plant tissues destined for use as food or feed.