Ag Research Spotlight:
“We have an audience who needs to understand what we're doing – they all care about it.” –Yiwei Jiang
The Ag Research Spotlight shines each month on an individual whose work reflects our commitment to the six strategic themes that guide Agricultural Research at Purdue. Our spotlight for November 2012 underscores the theme, “Strengthening ecological and environmental integrity in agricultural landscapes.”
Jiang grew up in a small town in northwest China, where an extremely dry climate affected agriculture. His interest in plant science took him first to the regional agricultural university. He then earned a master’s degree in plant physiology and spent five years as a research associate at the Beijing Vegetable Research Center. At the time, turfgrass was a new area of opportunity in China and a specific area of interest to Jiang, especially the effects of drought. He earned his doctorate at Kansas State University working on turfgrass physiology. After postdoctoral training in turfgrass science at the University of Georgia, he jumped at the chance to come to Purdue in 2005. “Purdue has a huge reputation in China,” he says.
Jiang’s research focuses on understanding the physiological and molecular bases of environmental stress tolerance in turfgrass. “Basically we want to find answers to how turf becomes more resistant to climate change and more adaptable to environmental conditions,” he explains. “We find answers to this at both the whole-plant and cellular levels.” He conducts his research in the lab, the greenhouse and the field.
The research has two major applications: helping turfgrass managers understand what they can do to maintain quality turf under stress conditions; and helping breeders look at physiological traits that may be linked to stress (drought) tolerance or resistance and can be incorporated into breeding programs. In the long term, Jiang’s research has the potential to help both the turf industry and consumers conserve water. “Our work is challenging, but very exciting,” he says.
Jiang collaborates with colleagues in the United States, China and Europe. Given his background, he effectively serves as the liaison between plant physiologists and other basic scientists and plant breeders in industry. He publishes frequently, both in trade magazines to provide timely information to turf managers and in academic journals, to contribute to the knowledge base of the science community.
TEACHER AND MENTOR
Jiang especially values opportunities to mentor the next generation of researchers. “A good graduate student can really bring something new to the program,” he says. “Students are young and energetic, and they may bring something I don’t know, or something high tech, that we can use in the lab.”