Oklahoma State University - Kay Scheets
OCAST PROGRAM: Oklahoma Plant Science Research
OCAST FUNDING: $82,372
Drought, disease, poor soil quality – just a few of the things that keep farmers up at night. What if those issues were a thing of the past?
Oklahoma researchers are discovering new ways for producing better breeds of plants that can withstand these unfavorable conditions. The field of genetic testing is in its infancy, and as researchers continue to unlock the code to DNA and RNA, they are discovering they have a long way to go in understanding gene function.
In the field of molecular biology, “silencing” a gene can help determine its function. Dr. Kay Scheets, adjunct assistant professor of botany at Oklahoma State University, is researching virus-induced gene silencing in maize plants. By inserting the maize mRNA into the maize necrotic streak virus (MNeSV) and infecting the plant with the altered virus, researchers can “trick” the maize plant’s cellular system into silencing that gene, providing a faster way to identify the gene’s function. The end goal is to breed better plants that can be drought or disease resistant or can grow in poor quality soil. Once Dr. Scheets optimizes MNeSV for silencing maize genes, she will expand the study to determine if the virus can be similarly used in wheat and oats. Through OCAST funding, Dr. Scheets hired research support and purchased molecular biology tools necessary to carry out her study.
Oklahoma researchers are discovering new ways for producing better breeds of plants that can withstand these unfavorable conditions.