As we transition to sustainable agricultural systems that focus on local production and prepare for the consequences of global warming, a clear imperative has emerged to invest in plant breeding for biotic stress resistance in the northeastern United States. The faculty in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University are in a unique position to leverage investments in genomics for crop improvement in this region and have been awarded a grant through the USDA-AFRI (Agricultural and Food Research Initiative) program entitled "Enhancing Education and Research for Plant Disease Resistance" to meet this challenge. We are building on our existing research and educational programs to train future plant breeders that are able utilize genomic tools, navigate a wealth of data with bioinformatics and synthesize research perspectives from both vegetable and grain breeding as part of their modern skill set. Through student training and curriculum development we are bringing together fundamental and applied plant breeding research.
Cornell researchers on the project include project director, Dr. Michael Mazourek and co-PI's Mark Sorrells, Walter De Jong, Martha Mutschler, Susan McCouch, Lukas Mueller and Rebecca Nelson. Applied plant resistance breeding programs in Phytophthora blight/virus/bacterial spot in pepper (Mazourek), Fusarium head blight in wheat (Sorrells), Septoria leaf spot in tomato (Mutschler), cyst nematodes in potato (DeJong) and pyramiding, and northern leaf blight in maize (Nelson) will be used to provide two graduate students and sixteen undergraduates with rotations, thesis projects and internships. The Solanaceae Genome Network (http://solgenomics.net) and Gramene (http://www.gramene.org/) offer research projects in genomic databases/bioinformatics. Curriculum have been developed and enhanced by creating new courses and learning materials. To insure these projects are relevant and focused the project is being advised by groups from an institutional education committee, seed producers, growers, processors and private sector plant breeders.
To learn more about our AFRI project efforts please visit the student training and coursework links on the left sidebar. At the coursework link you will be able to access our classes on-line including QTL Analysis: Mapping Geneotype to Phenotype in Practice (PLBR4080), Introduction to Scripting and Statistics for Genetic Data Management (PLBR4092), Breeding for Pest Resistance (PLBR6180)and an AFRI Faculty Lecture Series on special topics of interest in breeding for disease resistance.