The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently announced its 2021 Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production grants.
Kansas State University received $790,000 in grant funding for two projects to benefit winter canola and hard red winter wheat farmers in the state.
A grant of $490,000 was awarded to K-State’s research into CRISPR/Cas-based editing of genes that affect yield and quality traits in hard winter wheat.
CRISPR tools allow researchers to more precisely breed for traits that can increase grain yield and grain quality in hard winter wheat cultivars from the Kansas heat breeding program. This project is building off previous CRISPR research and will use “prime editing” to modify genes that have the potential to improve wheat productivity. The project will introduce the CRISPR-induced genes into the wheat cultivars that already have other superior traits, such as improved root system, good bread-making quality, high yield or high grain-protein content.
This project, led by Eduard Akhunov, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, is also supported by the Kansas Wheat Commission and will collaborate with the wheat research and improvement programs at K-State, Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, International Wheat Yield Partnership, USDA NIFA Wheat Coordinated Agricultural Project, and the NIFA IWYP Winter Wheat Breeding Innovation Hub at K-State.
A $300,000 grant was awarded to the Winter Canola Cultivar Deployment Project for the Great Plains, headed up by Michael Stamm, K-State winter canola breeder.
This long-term project has been working to deliver publicly available, agronomically sound, high-performing winter canola cultivars to Great Plains farmers. Farmers have been incorporating winter canola into their winter wheat rotations as a broadleaf crop. Additionally, there has been an increase in U.S. demand for canola seed, oil and meal.
The project tests, advances, releases and licenses new conventional and Roundup Ready open-pollinated cultivars. It also tests new female, male-sterile hybrid parent lines for broad adaptability to the southern Great Plains and delivers those results to stakeholders.
“Plant breeding is a critical link in helping agriculture mitigate climate change,” says NIFA director Carrie Castille. “These innovative projects will advance crop production efficiency, healthfulness, product quality and the value of U.S. agricultural plants, while increasing farmer profitability and sustainability.”