Zengyu Wang, Ph.D.
Director of Core Research and Transformation
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.
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.
- 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