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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Plant Science Research » Research » Research Project #441737

Research Project: Phenotyping of Soybean and Alfalfa Plants for Traits Enhancing Agronomic Value

Location: Plant Science Research

Project Number: 5062-12210-004-053-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2022
End Date: Aug 31, 2023

The goal of this project is to characterize genes involved in control of soybean and alfalfa plant architecture, and identify lines with enhanced yield and/or reduced nutrient inputs. The specific objectives are to: (1) develop gene expression approaches and use macroscopic and microscopic phenotyping methods to characterize soybean plants exhibiting novel shoot architecture phenotypes; (2) characterize the morphology and cellular anatomy of alfalfa stems from novel germplasm exhibiting improved fiber digestibility; and (3) phenotype root architecture and root cellular anatomy of novel alfalfa germplasm exhibiting enhanced nitrate uptake.

For Objective 1, cellular structure and gene expression localization will be examined using microscopic and macroscopic techniques in soybean mutants and natural variants exhibiting shoot architecture phenotypes to gain insight into the physiological and molecular basis of genetic control of shoot architecture. Shoot architecture will also be evaluated for light capture and grain yield. For Objective 2, the cellular anatomy of stems of alfalfa lines with enhanced fiber digestibility will be compared to control lines during development under diverse environmental conditions and the distribution of lignin, pectin, cellulose and other structural compounds from microscopic analyses compared with chemical analyses of stem tissues in order to understand the morphological and physiological changes that occurred during selection. For Objective 3, alfalfa germplasm selected for high and low nitrate uptake will be characterized for root developmental differences, morphological differences, nitrogen and phosphorus uptake, and enzyme activity. Specific root types or root cells will be collected for specific enzymatic and gene expression analyses.