Towards a More Sustainable Agriculture

 Agricultural crop production is facing many challenges – now and in the future. An anticipated increase in the demand for food and feed under changing climate conditions requires improvements to quality and quantity of production as well as lower inputs for the same or higher outputs. Our research aims to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying plant responses to nutrient limitations of nitrogen, phosphate and water.

Zero-Energy Greenhouses  The most climate-resilient food production system are greenhouses. They can produce crops year-round with low-input, recycling of water and fertilizer, low pest incidents and very high yield per acre (10x-100x over field). However, climate control and lighting systems are energy and therefore cost intensive and reduce sustainability. Our team of biologists, engineers, physicists, chemists and economists have developed a self-powering greenhouse system using wavelength selective organic photovoltaics. These solar panels utilize those wavelength that are not required for photosynthesis to generate electricity. These wavelength selective solar cells are semi-transparent for blue, red and far-red light for optimal crop production. (Funded by NSF InFEWS). https://news.ncsu.edu/2021/03/plants-solar-cell-greenhouses/

Metabolic Engineering to Increase Oil Seed Crop Yield: Camelina sativa is an excellent oil crop for feed and biofuel production because it grows with little water and fertilizer on marginal land. To improve camelina as a dedicated biofuel plant, we have increased its photosynthetic CO2-fixation rates by modifying CO2 transport, assimilation and allocation and reducing the cost of photorespiration. To extend its agricultural range, we are improving its stress tolerance against heat and drought. (Funded by DOE). 

InROOT:  Understanding plant systemic signaling controlling microbiome interactions

How do plants coordinate their development and response to biotic and abiotic challenges between different organs? In collaboration with teams from Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan, we investigate the communications within plants between roots and shoots in response to nutrient deficiencies and microbiomes. (Funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation) https://mbg.au.dk/en/research/research-centres/inroot/

Re-engineering Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Symbiosis in Brassicaceae  Plants have evolved to optimize growth and survival in their physical (abiotic) and biological (biotic) environment. An important interaction is the ability to build symbiotic relationships with fungi and bacteria that enable them to access essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphate and water beyond the reach or ability of their roots. A  symbiotic relationship has evolved between plant roots and specific fungi (e.g. Rhizophagus irregularis) which invade and form Arbuscular Mycorrhizae (AM). These fungal hyphae are thinner than plant roots and can therefore access nutrients and especially immobile phosphate in the soil in spaces the plant root cannot reach. AM fungi establishes an intracellular membrane system within host cells that enables the exchange of sugar and lipids from the plant for nutrients and water from the fungus. The great majority (~95%) of plant species on Earth form AM whereas, the agriculturally important Brassicaceae (e.g. rapeseed, mustards, cauliflower, cabbage) and Amaranthaceae (e.g. spinach, beets, quinoa) have lost the ability to establish this type of symbiosis with fungi. We have carried out comparative genome analysis of known symbiosis pathway elements and are transforming the “lost genes” into Camelina in an attempt to re-establish their ability to host AM.

Improving Quinoa and Lupin as protein crops  La biología molecular de las plantas está basada en grandes bases de datos de acceso libre y herramientas de bioinformática. Todas What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Peru Mean?esas bases de datos y herramientas están disponibles gratuitamente en Internet, pero, todas están en inglés. Hemos creado protocolos, videos instructivos y charlas, así  como algunas interfaces en español para bases de datos y herramientas. Esperemos que sean de utilidad para ustedes. Apreciamos retroalimentación sobre el contenido de nuestra página para que podamos seguir mejorando. Check out our teaching and training materials for bioinformatics and molecular biology in spanish :  https://bioinformatica.wordpress.ncsu.edu/