The science of applying genetic and plant breeding principles and biotechnology to improve plants.

This research area impacts the life of every individual in the world and has been enormously successful in achieving improved yields, disease resistance, nutritional quality, industrial uses, and landscape/horticultural aesthetics.

Research Areas

  • Plant Breeding and Genetics
  • Biotechnology

Current Research

Current research in genetic improvement targets a diverse array of traits in vegetable, grain and bioenergy crops. Scientific approaches integrate both laboratory and field research, where genomics, bioinformatics, quantitative genetics, and biotechnology increase the efficiency of selection and breeding of better crop varieties.

Corn/Maize Research

Specific examples of maize research include nitrogen use efficiency, stress/drought tolerance, long-term selection for chemical composition of the corn kernel, improvement of germplasm for disease resistance and other traits. This research leads to improved varieties with higher yields, new commercial uses and markets, and basic information to provide a framework for future sustained progress.

Soybean Research

Soybean breeders evaluate and use the diversity of the germplasm collection to increase knowledge of soybean genetics, develop soybean for specific food uses, and develop an improved disease and nematode resistance. Progress will lead to improved soybean germplasm and varieties that survive environmental stress and are competitive in domestic and international markets.

Small Grains Research

The small grains program focuses on the advancement of improved varieties and parental lines of soft red winter wheat and spring oats, combining enhanced nutritional quality with high yield and other desirable agronomic traits.

Bioenergy Feedstocks Program

The bioenergy feedstocks program focuses on developing sustainable crops for biofuel production including miscanthus, switchgrass, sorghum and high biomass maize. Breeding programs focus on improving biomass, cellulosic composition, stress tolerance, and enhanced traits to improve production efficiency.

Horticulture/Vegetable Crop Program

The horticulture/vegetable crop program seeks innovative ways to improve nutritional quality and disease and pest resistance of various crops, including broccoli and cauliflower.

Related Research Programs