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August 18, 2017

AMES, Iowa – Farmers often go to great lengths to keep viruses and aphids out of their fields, but Iowa State University scientists are imagining a future in which these harmful agents could be engineered to help crops.

It’s a wild and highly speculative idea, the researchers admit. But the research will unearth valuable clues about how viruses, insects and plants interact and could lead to new interventions to safeguard the food supply.

August 2, 2017

Researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), the University of Minnesota, the University of California, Davis, and Iowa State University have received a four-year $10.3 million award to engineer insect-vectored viruses to express genes in maize that can help in combatting disease, drought, and other yield-reducing stresses.

July 14, 2017

AMES, Iowa – Dry weather forces plants to save energy by reducing their growth rate, but it’s not as if a plant can consult a rain gauge or weather report. So how do they know when to ease up on growth?

Yanhai Yin, a professor of genetics, development and cell biology and a Plant Sciences Institute Faculty Scholar, has spent years charting the genetic mechanisms that govern plant stress response and growth to answer that question.

July 12, 2017

AMES, IA – Iowa State University researchers for the first time have mapped the various molecular components that govern how environmentally stressed plants interrupt their normal growth pathways by tapping into an important energy recycling function.

The research, published today in the peer-reviewed academic journal Developmental Cell, shows that autophagy, a system by which both plants and animals recycle energy and molecular components, plays a key role in slowing plant growth during times of stress.

Yanhai Yin, a professor of genetics, development and cell biology and a Plant Sciences Institute Faculty Scholar, said plants slow their growth when they experience stress such as drought, a prolonged lack of sunlight or any other low-energy circumstance. But teasing out the genetic interactions that result in slower growth has puzzled scientists for years.
 

July 12, 2017

This summer, in cornfields in Iowa and Nebraska, about a thousand small point-and-shoot digital cameras will be enclosed in waterproof cases, mounted on poles and attached to solar-powered battery chargers. They will take pictures every ten minutes as plants grow; all part of a plan to create better seeds.  “We watch plants go through their normal growth and development and also we watch them respond to environmental stressors, like drought and so forth,” says Pat Schnable, director of the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University.