Plant Sciences Initiative
Dramatic advances in plant-based agriculture are absolutely essential if we are to sustainably feed the more than 9 billion people projected to inhabit our planet by 2050. We will need higher-yielding plants that are more nutritious, use water and nutrients more efficiently, and can tolerate more variation in the environment. Cutting edge advances in plant biology, genomics and epigenetics will permit plant scientists to develop new and novel ways to deliver needed plant traits.
Here at Purdue University, we know feeding a growing world population is going to require Smarter Agriculture™. That’s why we’ve created the Purdue Plant Sciences Research and Education Pipeline initiative. Our mission is to propel the Purdue plant sciences program to a global leadership position by delivering the innovation, technology, and human capacity necessary to help farming operations of all sizes produce food, fuel, and fiber more efficiently. The initiative consists of the four components outlined below.
Research and Education Pipeline
Center for Molecular Agriculture
Researchers at the Center for Molecular Agriculture will focus on the fundamental molecular mechanisms that form the basis for plant development and function. The long-term objective is to predict the effects of specific genetic changes on plant phenotypes, or characteristics. Rapid advances in DNA sequencing and genome editing technologies make it possible to identify and validate the roles of specific genes in influencing plant traits.
Plant Genome Editing Facility
Genes of potential value identified in crop and non-crop model systems will be modified using both conventional molecular genetics and genome-editing technologies, such as CRISPR/s, to validate their impact on agronomic traits. Development of this capacity will bridge the gap between identification of valuable genes and commercializing them.
Automated Field Phenotyping Laboratory
Our superior research farms give us the opportunity to be the world leader in the new area of automated field phenotyping. Investment in this new technology will provide billions of field measurements for detailed assessment of important traits such as canopy development, leaf area index, height, photosynthetic ability, etc., that are important for both research and commercialization.
Plant Commercialization Incubator Facility
Field trials and testing are critical for licensing and commercialization that make it possible to use intellectual property in the plant sciences developed at Purdue. The plant commercialization incubator facility will enhance the value of intellectual property and will make Purdue the go-to place for industry partners looking for innovation and new investment opportunities.
Unique Opportunity for Students
The Plant Sciences Research and Education Pipeline will allow students to build technological and analytical skills, as well as entrepreneurship, leadership, and teamwork. Investments in teaching laboratories that are equipped for plant sciences research will offer students opportunities to gain experience with cutting edge molecular tools. These laboratories will build on Purdue’s leadership in the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition.
Another student component of the plant sciences initiative is the Molecular Agriculture Summer Institute. The two-part program offers summer research opportunities to high school students as an introduction to the plant sciences at Purdue, and an undergraduate program offers summerlong research opportunities to current Purdue students.