1. Staff
  2. Researchers

Zengyu Wang, Ph.D.

Director of Core Research and Transformation

Current Research

problem
The Problem

Genetic improvement of forage quality and biomass yield will have a profound impact on animal productivity. Conventional breeding develops new cultivars by the process of selection within a species. The process has been limited to the use of natural allelic variations within the germplasm collections. Many important forage species are outcrossing and polyploid; these features make it very challenging for breeders to effectively use natural or randomly induced variations.

approach
The Approach

We seek to complement or accelerate the breeding process by using new technologies. Genetic transformation offers the opportunity to generate unique genetic variations that are either absent in the sexually compatible gene pool or has very low heritability. This approach is very effective in modifying plants and analyzing gene functions, however, it has been very difficult to deregulate and commercialize transgenic forage cultivars. Therefore, we have been working on genome editing and generating targeted genetic variations by nontransgenic methods.

Current Projects

  • Genome editing in forage and cover crops
  • Genetic improvement of forage quality (lignin biosynthesis, flowering time and senescence)
  • Genetic improvement of biomass yield
  • Seed physical dormancy in forage and cover crops
  • Genetic modification of switchgrass
  • Understanding molecular mechanisms that control tissue culture response and transformation efficiency
Education
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Agronomy, Beijing Agricultural University, 1990
Grants

Project Title: Genetic modification of switchgrass
Source: U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center
Term: 2012 to 2017

Project Title: Production of transgenic alfalfa plants
Source: Forage Genetics International
Term: 2015 to 2016

Honors
  • Distinguished Scientist, Society for In Vitro Biology, 2015
Patents
  • Wang, et al., MtHP promoter element. U.S. Patent No. 7,056,743 (issued Jun 6, 2006). European Patent No. 1608761; Australian Patent No. 2004227405.
  • Zhang et al., Increased wax production in plants. U.S. Patent No. 7,253,342 (issued Aug 7, 2007). Australian Patent No. 20052955420.
  • Wang, et al., Plants with increased phosphorous uptake. U.S. Patent No. 7,417,181 (issued Aug 26, 2008).
  • Harrison, et al., Root-specific phosphate transporter promoters. U.S. Patent No. 7,534,932 (issued May 19, 2009).
  • Wang, et al., Plant phytase genes and method of use. U.S. Patent No. 7,557,265 (issued Jul 7, 2009).
  • Cheng, et al., Plants with delayed flowering. U.S. Patent No. 7,572,953 (issued Aug 11, 2009).
  • Wang, et al., Agrobacterium transformation of stolons. U.S. Patent No. 7,611,898 (issued Nov 3, 2009).
  • Harrison, et al., Root-specific phosphate transporter promoters. U.S. Patent No. 8,115,056 (issued Feb 14, 2012).
  • Harrison, et al., Root-specific phosphate transporter promoters. U.S. Patent No. 8,115,057 (issued Feb 14, 2012).
  • Wang, et al., Switchgrass transformation method. U.S. Patent No. 8,569,582 (issued Oct 29, 2013).
  • Dixon, et al., Biofuel production methods and compositions. U.S. Patent No. 9,309,528 (issued Apr 12, 2016).