University of Nevada, Reno professor uses genetic engineering to make plants more resilient against droughts and changes in salinity

In *All, Agricultural Systems by AgIsAmerica

John Cushman, a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, recently was picked by the United States department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute to be this year’s winner of the Community Science Program. The program was created to advance research in sequencing genes of specific species of crops that will advance the goals of the DOE. Cushman is researching the mechanism the crystalline ice plant uses to cope with fluctuations in salinity levels and precipitation amounts.

The ice plant is commonly found in arid climates where rainfall is intermittent and sometimes nonexistent and must rely on crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) to cope with the conditions. Normally, plants open their stomata in the daytime to collect CO2 and produce sugar. This process is known as C3 photosynthesis and it is not water efficient. Water evaporates from the leaves and is lost to the atmosphere. During CAM, the plant keeps the stomata closed during the day and opens them at night when the sun is not out, reducing the amount of water that evaporates.

Professor Cushman is researching how harsh environmental conditions affect the expression of CAM. Cushman and his team are conducting many tests that will help the researches learn about the genomics behind CAM and hopefully, one day, apply those genetics to C3 plants such as wheat, corn and soybeans.

To learn more about this work from the University of Nevada, Reno, read more here.

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