Faculty Research Projects
Plant growth regulation of herbaceous perennials is evaluated using existing and new chemical growth regulation products for efficacy and recommended rates for containerized herbaceous perennials. We also evaluate application methods and interaction with other production factors.
Biofuel and disease
Faculty also utilize the greenhouse facility to focus on the biotechnology and genomics of bio-energy crops by combining traditional breeding strategies with modern molecular biology tools to try to improve the biomass and stress tolerance of switch grass. We are also studying the disease resistance mechanisms of horticultural crops including tomato and watermelon.
Nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics, is the study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients (and other naturally occurring compounds) in the foods we eat. Fruit crops, especially berries, are known to contain many health-promoting metabolites including antioxidants and flavonols. Discovery of genes in plants that control the production of these compounds will assist in breeding more nutritious fruits and vegetables. The strawberry seedlings represent part of a collection of "knockout mutants," i.e., transformed plants in which a native gene has been interrupted by foreign DNA. By studying the changes in plants with interrupted genes, we can learn the function of those genes and whether or not they are responsible for the health promoting metabolites of strawberry.
Tomato is a model crop for plants with edible fleshy fruits. A USDA sponsored research project has been initiated to generate activation tag (Atag) mutant lines of tomato to learn the function of tomato genes. We expect to generate 20,000 ATag lines, each of which will overexpress a different tomato gene. These ATag lines can reveal the function of tagged genes by changing their expression patterns. The mutant plants will be screened in the greenhouse for differences in plant habit, flowering and fruit shape as well as productivity. The project will provide information about the ATag lines to the research community regarding valuable mutants/genes for breeding applications in tomato and other vegetable crops.
Student Research Projects
Undergraduate and Graduate student research projects are an important aspect of the greenhouse facilities and a few of the recent projects are listed below.
Kevin Harris is evaluating the effect of uniconazole applications as sprays, substrate drenches and liner dips on the shoot and root growth of herbaceous perennial plants.
Margaret Tackett is investigating the the effect of timing of application of 6-BA (Configure) relative to the increase in basal branching in Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan', Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple', and Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red'.
Mara Grossman is perfoming a study to evaluate applications of 6-BA (Configure) on plug production under lights over winter.