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Steven B Cannon

Research Geneticist (Plants)

Corn Insect & Crop Genetics Research Unit

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Steven Cannon
Research Geneticist (Plants)
819 Wallace Road
1017 CGIL
Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa 50011-4014
515-294-9359 (Fax)



Research Interests:

Management of data for plant biology research and breeding, especially for legume crops (such as soybean, alfalfa, common bean, chickpea, peanut). Bioinformatics and data processing information. Genome assembly and gene prediction and annotation. Methods of gene family construction and analysis, and use of gene families to identify corresponding genetic elements across related species. Crop domestication and improvement.

Aims: Provide access to integrated genetic and genomic data, to enable researchers and plant breeders to breed improved varieties of legume crops.

Background: The need to feed more people, in the face of pressures from changing climate and from new environmental and pathogen challenges, means that plant breeders need to make faster progress, using the best analysis tools and methods. Plant breeding is now a multi-disciplinary endeavor, utilizing detailed information about underlying genome and gene sequences, and involving genetics, statistics, high-performance computational methods, remote sensing, agronomy, pathology, modeling, and other approaches. Good data management has become critical for this work. Several USDA-ARS projects work to maintain the “data infrastructure” for this work, by producing and maintaining databases, websites, and analysis methods to support crop improvement. The work of my project focuses on legume crops, such as soybean, peanut, lentil, and more than two dozen other species that are important for human and animal nutrition and for other uses. Legumes are unusual among crops in that they have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, allowing them to convert atmospheric nitrogen into fertilizer directly usable by the plant. In turn, this allows legumes to produce higher levels of protein than many other crops. Legume crops are therefore the source of a large portion of the protein in human and livestock diets.

Approach: The work of my research group focuses on making data about legume species accessible to researchers, for breeding and other plant biology research. We maintain several on-line databases, including SoyBase, LegumeInfo, and PeanutBase. These provide access to genome sequences, predicted genes, and genetic markers for many important traits such as disease resistance, various kinds of stress tolerance, agronomic traits such as time to maturity or plant size, and nutritional traits such as oil and protein quality.

Outcomes:  This work is used by plant breeders to develop improved crop varieties, and by other plant researchers to understand the basis of important traits such as resistance to current and emerging diseases, and plant responses to environmental stresses such as drought, flooding, salinity, and heat.