The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced $8.65 million in grants on Wednesday to 22 plant breeding research projects through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.
The funding includes $650,000 for a project led by Texas A&M’s Mark Burow, who also directs the Peanut Innovation Lab project, Breeding for Drought, Leaf Spot and Oil.
The NIFA grant includes Peanut Innovation Lab co-PIs from Ghana, Theophilus Tengey, Richard Oteng-Frimpong, and James Asibuo, as well as Venu Mendu at Texas Tech, who leads a Peanut IL project exploring biochemical markers for aflatoxin resistance in peanut seed coat.
The NIFA project uses modern biotechnology tools to help with advancing alleles for resistance to pathogens and pests by transferring novel wild species alleles into a set of backcrossed breeding lines sharing a common, popular genetic background (the variety Florunner), and each possessing a small segment of chromosomal DNA inherited from the wild species parents.
As part of the effort, the team will screen the breeding lines for disease and pest resistance, identify DNA markers diagnostic for these resistances, and identify candidate genes responsible for resistance. The product breeding lines will be available for marker-assisted pyramiding of alleles into multiple disease-resistant cultivars.
The project also will create opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students in natural sciences and agriculture at US universities, including a minority-serving undergraduate college, and in universities in West Africa.