PI: Ivan Baxter (USDA-ARS & Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)
CoPIs: Paul Anderson (Donald Danforth Plant Science Center), Owen Hoekenga (USDA-ARS & Boyce Thompson Institute), Chad Myers (University of Minnesota), Mourad Ouzzani (Purdue University), Margaret Smith (Cornell University) and Terry Woodford-Thomas (Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)
Maize is the most widely adapted and adopted crop on the planet. This is largely due to the high degree of genetic and phenotypic diversity that can be harnessed into adaptation for local conditions. While progress has been made in understanding some aspects of adaptation such as flowering time, little progress has been made with respect to adaptation to soil conditions. This is ironic given the importance of plant-soil interactions as they relate to agricultural efficiency, sustainability and productivity. This project will leverage germplasm resources and discoveries generated by other NSF supported programs to examine the genetic and environmental factors that determine the elemental composition (many elements exist as ions, hence, the IONome) of maize grain. These previous efforts, together with recent innovations in the study of the ionome, will allow the rapid dissection of the genes and environmental conditions that determine the macronutrient, micronutrient and metal contaminant composition. This will create hypotheses that can be tested using experimental varieties evaluated across the United States and in Africa. This information will lead to the development of new maize varieties that are better adapted to low fertility soils, contain higher levels of essential macro- or micronutrients ("biofortification"), or decrease levels of metal contaminants.
The project will support training opportunities for young scientists, aspiring scientists, teachers and international scientists. Student and teacher internships will be sponsored in St. Louis, St. Paul and Ithaca, while educational resources will be developed to assist high school teachers in incorporating bioinformatics and plant molecular biology into their curricula. Participants will also mentor high school students in science through eScience, a program utilizing technology to link students and scientists. Information will be shared with international sciences through direct connections with breeders at CIMMYT involved in biofortification and participants in maize breeding workshops offered at the University of Ghana. Data generated through this project will be available through www.ionomicshub.org/, www.panzea.org, and www.maizegdb.org.