Sorghum_HI10_Spence                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Soil salinity is an increasing problem worldwide, and greatly limits crop production.  Most crop plants are salt sensitive (glycophytes), and breeding for improved salt tolerance has met with limited success.  A small percentage of flowering plants, however, can complete their life cycle under saline conditions, and are considered halophytes.  Some halophytes are closely related to salt-sensitive crop plants and an investigation of the genetic, morphological, physiological and biochemical differences between glycophytic crops and their halophytic relatives may identify novel mechanisms that can be used to increase the salt tolerance of crops.  Furthermore, it has been hypothesized that glycophytic species related to halophytes may already have most of the basic machinery needed for salt tolerance.  This NSF-funded project will focus on the halophytic turfgrasses seashore paspalum and zoysiagrass, which have leaf adaptations that allow plants to sequester and/or excrete salt, and their salt-sensitive relatives sorghum and finger millet, two cereal crops.  Understanding the genetics behind salt-adaptations in halophytes will ultimately find applications in breeding for enhanced salt tolerance.  Furthermore, the project will be used as a vehicle to train graduate and undergraduate students, and to introduce 6-12 graders to inquiry-based learning and instill in them a passion for plant science. 

Outreach Activities:

Blog in the Athens Science Observer

Project Participants:

Katrien M. Devos (PI): Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics (Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences), and Dept. of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Maor Bar-Peled (Co-PI): Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

David Jespersen (Co-PI): Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics (Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences), and Dept. of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Griffin, GA

Paul Raymer (Co-PI): Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics (Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences), and Dept. of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Griffin, GA

Franklin E. Leach (Co-PI): Dept. of Environmental Health Science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Melanie Rug (Co-PI): Centre for Advanced Microscopy, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia