Abiotic stress, especially drought stress, is a major limitation for agriculture and causes extensive yield loss globally. In the rain-fed agriculture of the southern Great Plains, drought stress has been a persistent threat affecting forage crop production. Figuring out how to maintain stable forage yields under adverse environmental conditions is a great challenge for cattle producers. Forage quality also plays an essential role in cattle performance by increasing cow reproductive efficiency and reducing the need for costly supplemental feed. Improving the quality of forage crops is a frequently pursued but challenging goal for forage producers and researchers.
Natural variation in abiotic stress tolerance and quality exists in different genotypes of a crop species. We use genotype comparative studies and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to reveal the mechanisms underlying natural variance in stress tolerance and forage quality traits. In this process, a combination of plant physiology, biochemistry, molecular and genetics approaches are utilized. GWAS of traits related to abiotic stress and forage quality have been performed in the model legume Medicago truncatula, and are being extended to the cover crop cowpea (Vigna unguiculata). Significant markers and genes identified in the GWAS are being used to generate forage crops with improved abiotic stress tolerance and quality and could be used in future molecular breeding practices in collaboration with other Noble colleagues.
Project Title: Functional genomics of forage quality traits
Source: Noble Research Institute
Term: 2019 to 2022
Project Title: The Center for Bioenergy Innovation (CBI)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
Term: 2017 to 2022
Project Title: Genome-wide association studies of forage quality traits in Medicago truncatula
Source: Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology
Term: 2016 to 2018
Project Title: Genome-wide association study of plant salinity responsive traits in a collection of Medicago Truncatula germplasm
Source of support: Noble Summer Research Scholar Program grant