1. Staff

Legume Genomics Laboratory

The Legume Genomics Laboratory integrates genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and phenotypic data on plant performance to understand mechanisms plants use for growth, development, and coping with abiotic and biotic stress factors to develop plants that are able to thrive and be productive with lower levels of on-farm inputs.

Alfalfa

The overall goals of the forage legume breeding and genomics program are to develop genetic solutions to factors limiting agricultural productivity and implement molecular breeding strategies to facilitate selection and accelerate genetic gains during cultivar development. Alfalfa is an important forage legume species due to the excellent agricultural infrastructure, multiple benefits to livestock producers both regionally and globally, and its use as a dual-purpose forage. Its capacity for symbiotic nitrogen fixation and nutritional value are desirable forage characteristics. However, additional traits such as increased biomass yield, tolerance to specific stresses (soil acidity, drought, diseases and insects), grazing tolerance and persistence are needed in commercial cultivars.

Pecan

Our research on pecan, an important horticultural crop, includes using molecular markers to identify the genetic information contained in the DNA. The specific segments of DNA can be used as DNA fingerprints, which are unique to each cultivated pecan variety. Each individual tree has a unique genetic fingerprint, similar to how humans have unique patterns in the ridges of their fingertips.

The DNA fingerprinting process requires only young leaves from trees to identify pecan varieties growing in an established orchard or propagated by nurseries. In contrast, other methods of identifying pecan varieties require waiting six to eight years for the tree to produce nuts. Varieties can be identified visually based on the size and shape of the nuts, but these features are subject to environmental variations. For example, if limited water is available, the nuts will be smaller and could lead to an incorrect identification of the tree. DNA fingerprinting technologies for pecan cultivar identification can also be used to inform orchard management decisions based on the likely resistance or susceptibility of the tree cultivars against diseases, such as pecan scab.

Pecan scab is caused by a fungal pathogen that leads to leaf spots, defoliation and nut losses. Current efforts are focused on understanding the genetics of pecan scab resistance based on natural inoculations of scab isolates in the field in a diverse collection of trees (provenance collection) and in segregating populations developed from crosses between tolerant and susceptible trees. These genetic solutions can reduce the reliance on fungicide applications while mitigating yield losses associated with this pathogen.

Yanina Alarcon
Yanina Alarcon

Research Associate 3

Pecan Genomics

Shahjahan Ali, Ph.D.
Shahjahan Ali, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Bhamidimarri FFAR Cash Match

Tim Hernandez
Tim Hernandez

Research Associate 2

Genomic Resources/Trait Development

Denis Jaquez
Denis Jaquez

Research Technician-PTT

Monteros/Rohla USDA/NIFA/NMSU

Laura Putman
Laura Putman

Research Assistant 1 - FTT

Genomic Resources/Trait Development