Erik J. Sacks

Associate Professor

Dr. Sacks studies the genetics of rice, miscanthus, and sugarcane to facilitate the breeding of improved cultivars that address critical societal needs, such as the sustainable production of food, fiber, and energy. By identifying genes that confer tolerance to environmental stresses, such as cold, heat, or salt, and resistance to diseases and pests, he allows farmers to do more with less by reducing the risks and costs of production.

Primary Disciplines


  • Ph.D: Genetics, University of California, Davis — 1996
  • M.S.: Horticulture, University of California, Davis — 1992
  • B.S.: Plant Breeding, Cornell University — 1990

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Professor of Perennial Grass Breeding, Dept. of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois (2010 - present)
  • Manager, Plant Breeding, Mendel Biotechnology Inc. (2009 - 2010)
  • Senior Plant Breeder, Mendel Biotechnology Inc. (2007 - 2009)
  • Research Geneticist (Plants), Crop Genetics & Production Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Stoneville, MS (2004 - 2007)
  • Scientist, HortResearch, New Zealand (2001 - 2002)
  • Affiliate Scientist & Project Coordinator, Plant Breeding, Genetics & Biochemistry Division, International Rice Research Institute, Philippines (1999 - 2001)
  • Post Doctoral Researcher, Department of Nematology, University of California, Davis (1997 - 1999)
  • Post Doctoral Researcher, Department of Horticulture, The Ohio State Univ. Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center (1997)

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Liu, S., L.V. Clark, K. Swaminathan, J.M. Gifford, J.A. Juvik, and E.J. Sacks.  (In Press)  High density genetic map of Miscanthus sinensis reveals inheritance of zebra stripe.  GCB Bioenergy.
  • Głowacka, K., U. Jørgensen, J. Kjeldsen, K. Kørup, I. Spitz, E. Sacks, and S. Long.  (In Press)  Can the exceptional chilling tolerance of C4 photosynthesis found in Miscanthus × giganteus be exceeded? Screening of a novel Miscanthus Japanese germplasm collection.  Annals of Botany.
  • Kaiser, C.M., L.V. Clark, J.A. Juvik, T.B. Voigt, and E.J. Sacks.  (In Press)  Characterizing a Miscanthus Germplasm Collection for Yield, Yield-Components, and Genotype × Environment Interactions.  Crop Science.
  • Tamura K.I., Y. Sanada, A. Shoji, K. Okumura, N. Uwatoko, K.G. Anzoua, E.J. Sacks, and T. Yamada.  (In Press)  DNA markers for identifying interspecific hybrids between Miscanthus sacchariflorus and Miscanthus sinensis.  Grassland Science.
  • Kaiser, C.M., and E.J. Sacks.  (In Press)  Cold-tolerance of Miscanthus seedlings and effects of spring and autumn frosts on mature clonally replicated cultivars.  Crop Science.
  • Clark, L.V., J.R. Stewart, A. Nishiwaki, Y. Toma, J.B. Kjeldsen, U. Jørgensen, H. Zhao, J. Peng, J.H. Yoo, K. Heo, C.Y. Yu, T. Yamada, and E.J. Sacks.  2015.  Genetic structure of Miscanthus sinensis and M. sacchariflorus in Japan indicates a gradient of bidirectional but asymmetric introgression.  J. Exp. Bot. doi:10.1093/jxb/eru51.
  • Głowacka, K., S. Adhikari, J. Peng, J. Gifford, J.A. Juvik, S.P. Long, and E.J. Sacks.  2014.  Variation in chilling tolerance for photosynthesis and leaf extension growth among genotypes related to the C4 grass Miscanthus ×giganteus.  J. Exp. Bot. 65:5267-5278.
  • Clark, L.V., J.E. Brummer, K. Głowacka, M. Hall, K. Heo, J. Peng, T. Yamada, J.H. Yoo, C.Y. Yu, H. Zhao, S.P. Long, and E.J. Sacks.  2014.  A footprint of past climate change on the diversity and population structure of Miscanthus sinensis.  Annals of Botany 114:97-107.
  • Głowacka, K., L.V. Clark, S. Adhikari, J. Peng, J.R. Stewart, A. Nishiwaki, T. Yamada, U. Jørgensen, T.R. Hodkinson, J. Gifford, J.A. Juvik, and E.J. Sacks.  2014.  Genetic variation in Miscanthus ×giganteus and the importance of estimating genetic distance thresholds for differentiating clones.  GCB Bioenergy doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12166.
  • Sacks, E.J.  2014.  Perennial rice: challenges and opportunities. In: C, Batello, S. Cox, L. Wade, N. Pogna, A. Bozzini, and J. Choptiany (eds.).  Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services in agricultural production: Proceedings from the FAO Expert Workshop on Perennial Crops for Food Security. FAO, Rome.
  • Chae, W.B., S.J. Hong, J.M. Gifford, A.L. Rayburn, E.J. Sacks, and J.A. Juvik.  2014.  Plant morphology, genome size and SSR markers differentiate five distinct taxonomic groups among accessions in the genus Miscanthus.  GCB Bioenergy doi: 10.1111/gcbb.1210.
  • Sacks, E.J., J.A. Juvik, Q. Lin, J.R. Stewart, and T. Yamada.  2013.  The gene pool of Miscanthus species and its improvement, p. 73-101.  In: A.H. Paterson (ed.).  Genomics of the Saccharinae.  Plant Genetics and Genomics: Crops and Models. Vol. 11.  Springer, New York.
  • Seong, E.S, J.H. Yoo, J.G. Lee, H.Y. Kim, I.S. Hwang, K. Heo, J.D. Lim, D.K. Lee, E.J. Sacks, and C.Y. Yu.  2013.  Transient overexpression of the Miscanthus sinensis glucose-6-phosphate isomerase gene (MsGPI) in Nicotiana benthamiana enhances expression of genes related to antioxidant metabolism.  Plant Omics Journal 6:408-414.
  • Seong, E.S., J.H. Yoo, J.G. Lee, H.Y. Kim, I.S. Hwang, K. Heo, J.K. Kim, J.D. Lim, E.J. Sacks, and C.Y. Yu.  2013.  Antisense-overexpression of the MsCOMT gene induces changes in lignin and total phenol contents in transgenic tobacco plants.  Mol. Biol. Rep. 40:1979-1986.
  • Kim, C., D. Zhang, S.A. Auckland, L.K. Rainville, K. Jakob, B. Kronmiller, E.J. Sacks, M. Deuter, and A.H. Paterson.  2012.  SSR-based genetic maps of Miscanthus sinensis and M. sacchariflorus, and their comparison to sorghum.  Theor. Appl. Genet. 124:1325–1338.
  • Glover, J.D., J.P. Reganold, L.W. Bell, J. Borevitz, E.C. Brummer, E.S. Buckler, C.M. Cox, T.S. Cox, T.E. Crews, S.W. Culman, L.R. DeHaan, D. Eriksson, B.S. Gill, J. Holland, F. Hu, B.S. Hulke, A.M.H. Ibrahim, W. Jackson, S.S. Jones, S.C. Murray, A.H. Paterson, E. Ploschuk, E.J. Sacks, S. Snapp, D. Tao, D.L. Van Tassel, L.J. Wade, D.L. Wyse, and Y. Xu.  2010.  Perennial questions of hydrology and climate response (Letter).  Science 330:33-34.
  • Glover, J.D., J.P. Reganold, L.W. Bell, J. Borevitz, E.C. Brummer, E.S. Buckler, C.M. Cox, T.S. Cox, T.E. Crews, S.W. Culman, L.R. DeHaan, D. Eriksson, B.S. Gill, J. Holland, F. Hu, B.S. Hulke, A.M.H. Ibrahim, W. Jackson, S.S. Jones, S.C. Murray, A.H. Paterson, E. Ploschuk, E.J. Sacks, S. Snapp, D. Tao, D.L. Van Tassel, L.J. Wade, D.L. Wyse, and Y. Xu. 2010. Increased food and ecosystem security via perennial grains. Science 328:1638-1639.
  • Zhao, M., Z. Ding, R. Lafitte, E. Sacks, G. Dimayuga, and D. Holt.  2010.  Photosynthetic characteristics in Oryza species.  Photosynthetica 48: 234-240.
  • Romano, G.B., E.J. Sacks, S.R. Stetina, A. F. Robinson, D.D. Fang, O.A. Gutierrez, and J.A. Scheffler. 2009. Identification and genomic location of a reniform nematode (Rotylenchulus reniformis) resistance locus (Renari) introgressed from Gossypium aridum into upland cotton (G. hirsutum). Theor. Appl. Genet. 120:139-150.
  • Sacks, E.J. and A.F. Robinson.  2009.  Introgression of resistance to reniform nematode (Rotylenchulus reniformis) into upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) from Gossypium arboreum and a G. hirsutum/Gossypium aridum bridging line.  Field Crops Res. 112:1-6.
  • Kantartzi, S.K., M. Ulloa, E. Sacks, and J.Mc.D. Stewart. 2009. Assessing genetic diversity in Gossypium arboreum L. cultivars using genomic and EST-derived microsatellites. Genetica 136:141-147.
  • Sacks, E.J. and A.F. Robinson. 2008. Development of trispecies backcross populations using a 2(ADD) hexaploid bridging line to introgress genes from A-genome diploids into upland cotton. Proceedings of the World Cotton Research Conferences-4, Paper 2000. [Peer-reviewed paper].
  • Robinson, A.F., P. Agudelo, C.A. Avila, A.A. Bell, F.E. Callahan, C.G. Cook, N.D. Dighe, O.A. Gutierrez, R.W. Hayes, J.N. Jenkins, J.T. Johnson, R. Kantety, G.W. Lawrence, K.S. Lawrence, L. Mangineni, J.C. McCarty, M.A. Menz, W.A. Meredith Jr., R.L. Nichols, R.T. Robbins, E. Sacks, B. Scheffler, G.L. Sciumbato, C.W. Smith, J.L. Starr, D.M. Stelly, S.R. Stetina, J.McD. Stewart, P.M. Thaxton, T.P. Wallace, D.B. Weaver, M.J. Wubben, and L.D. Young. 2008. Development of reniform nematode resistance in upland cotton. Proceedings of the World Cotton Research Conferences-4, Paper 1320. [Invited, peer-reviewed, paper].
  • Sacks, E.J. 2008. Ovule rescue efficiency of Gossypium hirsutum × G. arboreum progeny from field-grown fruit is affected by media composition and antimicrobial compounds. Plant Cell Tiss Organ Cult. 93:15-20.
  • Zhao, M., T.L.B Acuna, H.R. Lafitte, G. Dimayuga, and E. Sacks. 2008. Perennial hybrids of Oryza sativa × Oryza rufipogon: Part II. Carbon exchange and assimilate partitioning. Field Crops Res. 106:214-223.
  • Zhao, M., H.R. Lafitte, E Sacks, G. Dimayuga, and T.L.B. Acuna. 2008. Perennial O. sativa × O. rufipogon interspecific hybrids: I. Photosynthetic characteristics and their inheritance. Field Crops Res. 106:203-213.
  • Sacks, E.J., M.P. Dhanapala, M.T. Sta. Cruz, and R. Sallan. 2007. Clonal performance of perennial Oryza sativa/O. rufipogon selections and their combining ability with O. sativa cultivars for survival, stolon production and yield. Field Crops Res. 100:155-167.
  • Sacks, E.J., H.K. Abbas, and A. Mengistu. 2006. First report of endophytic Candida ipomoeae isolated from ovules of upland cotton in Mississippi. Plant Dis. 90:1362.
  • Sacks, E.J., M.P. Dhanapala, D.Y. Tao, M.T. Sta. Cruz, and R. Sallan. 2006. Breeding for perennial growth and fertility in an Oryza sativa/O. longistaminata population. Field Crops Res. 95:39-48.
  • Sacks, E.J., V. Schmit, K.L. McNally, and M.T. Sta. Cruz. 2006. Fertility in an interspecific rice population and its effect on selection for rhizome length. Field Crops Res. 95:30-38.
  • Yang, W., E.J. Sacks, M.L. Lewis Ivey, S.A. Miller, and D.M. Francis. 2005. Resistance in Lycopersicon esculentum intraspecific crosses to Race T1 strains of Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria causing bacterial spot of tomato. Phytopathology 95:519-527.
  • Hu, F.Y., D.Y. Tao, E. Sacks, B.Y. Fu, P. Xu, J. Li, Y. Yang, K. McNally, G.S. Khush, A.H. Paterson, and Z.-K. Li. 2003. Convergent evolution of perenniality in rice and sorghum. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100:4050-4054.
  • Sacks, E.J., J.P. Roxas, and M.T. Sta. Cruz. 2003. Developing perennial upland rice II: Field performance of S1 families from an intermated Oryza sativa/O. longistaminata population. Crop Sci. 43:129-134.
  • Sacks, E.J., J.P. Roxas, and M.T. Sta. Cruz. 2003. Developing perennial upland rice I: Field performance of Oryza sativa/O. rufipogon F1, F4 and BC1F4 progeny. Crop Sci. 43:120-128.
  • Hu, F.-Y., D.-Y. Tao, P. Xu, J. Li, Y. Yang, E. Sacks, K. McNally, T.S. Cruz, J. Zhou, and Z. Li. 2001. Two dominant complementary genes controlling rhizomatous expression in Oryza longistaminata. Rice Genet. Newsl. 18:34-36.
  • Kubota, S., J. Egdane, E. Sacks, and O. Ito. 2001. Growth and flowering of perennial rice in different moisture conditions. Jap. J. Crop Sci. 70(Extra Iss.1):80-81.
  • Tao, D., F. Hu, Y. Yang, P. Xu, J. Li, G. Wen, E. Sacks, K. McNally, and P. Sripichitt. 2001. Rhizomatous individual was obtained from interspecific BC2F1 progenies between Oryza sativa and Oryza longistaminata. Rice Genet. Newsl. 18:11-13.
  • Sacks, E.J. and D.M. Francis. 2001. Genetic and environmental variation for flesh color of tomato fruit in a population of modern breeding lines. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 126:221-226.
  • Sacks, E.J. and D.A. St. Clair. 1998. Variation among seven genotypes of Lycopersicon esculentum and 36 accessions of L. hirsutum for interspecific crossability. Euphytica 101:185-191.
  • Sacks, E.J., L.M. Gerhardt, E.B. Graham, J. Jacobs, T.A. Thorrup, and D.A. St. Clair. 1997. Variation among 41 genotypes of Lycopersicon esculentum for crossability to L. peruvianum. Annals of Botany 80:469-477.
  • Sacks, E.J. and D.A. St. Clair. 1996. Cryogenic storage of tomato pollen: effect on fecundity. HortScience 31:447-448.
  • Shaw, D.V. and E.J. Sacks. 1995. Response in genotypic and breeding value to a single generation of divergent selection for fresh fruit color in strawberry. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 120:270-273.
  • Sacks, E.J. and D.V. Shaw. 1994. Optimum allocation of objective color measurements for evaluating fresh strawberry fruit. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 119:330-334.
  • Sacks, E.J. and D.V. Shaw. 1993. Color change in fresh strawberry fruit of seven genotypes stored at 0C. HortScience 28:209-210.
  • Sacks, E. 1993. Masdevallia madness. Amer. Orch. Soc. Bull. 62:586-589. (Extension).