Location: Crop Improvement and Genetics Research
Project Number: 2030-21430-015-007-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Sep 1, 2022
End Date: Aug 31, 2024
Cooperators focus their efforts on developing efficient engineering and editing strategies for Triticum aestivum and Sorghum bicolor. The goal is to understand gene function in the two crop plants and use that information to improve the functionality and yield of both plants to contribute to U.S. agriculture and bioenergy efforts.
The field of biology has undergone fundamental changes in the last decades, with new insights and tools, like genetic engineering and gene editing. These tools help in developing an understanding of the genetic controls involved in traits critical to improvement of crops, like wheat and sorghum. Past efforts in the Cooperators’ laboratories have focused on optimizing those tools to maximize impact to reduce the bottleneck of translating findings from one crop into the other. Improving the genetic transformation pipeline will unlock its potential to test gene function and such advances likely will be transferable to other related cereals and grasses. Wheat is one of the most important staple crops, providing about one-fifth of the calories and proteins consumed by humans. Sorghum is also an important cereal crop, due to its high productivity on marginal lands and under increasingly climate-driven conditions, like extremes in water availability. However, use of modern methods of genetic modification for crop improvement has been difficult in wheat and sorghum. Transformation efficiency lagged other crops, like maize and rice. Classical transformation approaches, utilizing immature embryos, progressing through a callus phase, are labor- and resource-intensive and genotype-dependent. Recently, transformation using developmental genes, such as BABYROOM and WUSCHEL, have overcome some of these challenges in sorghum. However, these genes useful for transformation improvement are often patented, limiting applications in crop improvement research in the pubic sector. In this NACA, collaboration will be focused on establishing high transformation and gene editing efficiencies in both wheat and sorghum. Toward this objective, in addition to optimizing experimental procedures, other potential developmental genes will be identified and tested to see if they can improve transformation and gene editing efficiency in wheat and other crops. Improvement of transformation and gene editing efficiency will speed crop improvement via precisely targeting of specific genes. This approach also results in fewer regulatory hurdles, relative to those encountered by “GMO’s”. New editing approaches will build on efforts in both Cooperators’ laboratories and ones occurring at the Innovative Genomics Institute, based on one of the Cooperators being involved in a funded opportunity with that group. The goal of this NACA project is to leverage advances in both groups in transformation and editing technologies to increase capacity to use these modern technologies to improve both crops’ agricultural productivity.