OCAST funds seven research projects through Oklahoma Plant Science program
February 18, 2009
OCAST, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, Tuesday awarded more than one-half million dollars to seven individual research projects – the third round of plant science applications to receive funding under the Oklahoma Plant Science Research (OPSR) program signed into law in 2007.
There was a 47 percent increase in applications submitted for the current round of funding over the program’s previous year.
Total funding for the single applied research and six basic research projects is $539,879, according to Michael Carolina, executive director of OCAST. Oklahoma’s investment in plant science is expected to position the state to receive larger federal research awards and make progress in many areas including converting plants to energy and pharmaceuticals, according to Carolina.
The National Institutes of Health last year increased its research emphasis on developing new drugs and therapeutics derived from plants.
Oklahoma agricultural producers also can benefit with increased demand driven by the role of plant sciences in health, defense and energy, said Carolina.
The Oklahoma Plant Science Research program will:
- Improve the competitiveness of Oklahoma’s plant researchers in securing federal grants and contracts
- Help researchers gain the expertise and gather research data to support funding opportunities for larger research projects
- Encourage collaborative efforts to support applied plant research projects
- Support R&D necessary to move plant science research to commercialization
Plant science research, for the purpose of this program, targets those research activities occurring in higher education, nonprofit research institutions and private enterprises. The projects have potential commercial application and concern plant productivity, renewable biomass, plant-based environmental applications and chemical platforms, plant-based solutions to improve nutrition, human and/or animal health or performance, process applications and seed management and the development of new products and services that shall form the basis of new, high-technology plant science/agriculture industry for Oklahoma.
All projects are for two years. Successful applicants include:
- Environmental – Justin Moss, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater) – This research project totals $73,278 and will target developing turf grasses that are drought resistant. Oklahoma currently employs 10,000 people in the turf grass industry and benefits of drought resistant grasses can improve efforts in water conservation.
- Forest products – Rodney Will, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater) – Research targets for this $54,808 research project include determining both beneficial and detrimental uses of red cedar mulch for plant growth. Red cedar is not native to Oklahoma and uses large amounts of water while crowding other more desirable plants. Finding a beneficial way to use red cedar mulch would make the clearing of red cedar more cost effective and add other economic benefits.
- Whole plant physiology – Jeanmarie Verchot-Lubicz, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater) – This project will characterize the mechanism controlling the long-distance flow of proteins and virus-derived nanoparticles in plants. This project could provide an alternative to transgenic applications or chemical spraying for disease control. The award is $80,682.
- Plant pathology – Srinivasa Rao Uppalapati, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation (Ardmore) – The objective of this project is to identify molecular targets of coronatine which can lead to disease in tomatoes, brassicas and soybeans. Findings from the $82,467 project will help engineer plants with more durable resistance to combat infectious plant diseases, thereby improving economic opportunities for those who grow the plants.
- Molecular biology – Randy Allen, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater) – Abiotic stress is a primary factor limiting crop productivity worldwide. This project will seek to determine the function of responsive A20-like genes in certain plants. Knowledge developed could improve understanding of the factors that control stress acclimation in plants and could lead to novel strategies that could require reduced levels of irrigation and other inputs. Cost is $83,000.
- Molecular biology – Liuling Yan, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater) – This $83,000 project includes study of nitrogen and its application as a fertilizer in wheat production. Part of the focus will be to develop genetic understanding of nitrogen use effectiveness to enhance efficiency in wheat breeding and production.
- Whole plant physiology – Gerald Schoenknecht, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater)– Living cells maintain a cytosolic pH that is close to neutrality. Cytosolic acidification causes rapid cell damage and ultimately death. By study of this relationship, the principal investigator hopes to acquire a long-term insight from the work to optimize pH regulation in crop plants. This is expected to improve crop yield and quality in acidic environments. Cost is $82,644.