Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

$8.4 M boosts UCD plant scientist’s grain, fuel research

Eduardo Blumwald and his colleagues will use the grants to develop new molecular biology tools to accelerate switchgrass breeding and biotechnology tools to develop new varieties of pearl millet, a small-seeded grass. Karin Higgins, UC Davis/Courtesy photo

By
From page A5 | November 11, 2012 |

With new grants totaling $8.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Agency for International Development and industry partners, UC Davis plant scientist Eduardo Blumwald is reaching out to feed and fuel the world.

With his laboratory colleagues, Blumwald uses genetic engineering to improve the drought tolerance and efficiency of switchgrass, a native North American grass valued for its potential as a sustainable source of fuel, and to develop heat- and drought-tolerant varieties of pearl millet, a vitally important grain for India and Africa. Blumwald holds the Will W. Lester Chair in the department of plant sciences.

The Department of Energy recently awarded a five-year, $6.6 million grant to Blumwald and his collaborators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support his research into switchgrass, which has the advantages of being a high-yielding and adaptable perennial plant.

Blumwald and his colleagues will use the grant to develop new molecular biology tools to accelerate switchgrass breeding. Via genetic engineering, the team also will introduce traits recently developed at UCD to rapidly increase both the plant’s drought tolerance and nutrient-use efficiency.

Because current switchgrass varieties are only a few generations removed from their undomesticated predecessors, scientists anticipate that there is considerable potential for improving the plant as an emerging energy crop.

In order to ensure that the crop yields more energy than it requires to produce and does not compete with food crops, switchgrass and all other crops grown specifically for biomass must be grown with minimal fertilizer and water on marginal lands unsuitable for producing food crops.

In the second project, funded by a $1.8 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development and matched by in-kind support from the industry partners, the Blumwald lab is using biotechnology tools to develop new varieties of pearl millet, a small-seeded grass that has been grown in Africa and India for thousands of years.

The project is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Led by USAID, Feed the Future leverages the strengths of U.S. agencies and works with partners to address poverty and undernutrition around the world.

Pearl millet is an important grain crop because it will tolerate poor soils as well as heat and drought — conditions that are badly suited for growing other grain crops like corn and wheat. As millet increases in value as both a food and feed crop, there is a greater need to enhance its tolerance to heat and drought so that it will produce stable yields even in marginal environments. This is especially important for impoverished regions of Africa and India.

UCD is collaborating on the pearl millet project with an international consortium of researchers, including scientists at Arcadia Biosciences, headquartered in Davis; the nonprofit International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and Krishidhan Seeds, both of India.

The goal of the partnership is to develop indigenous drought-tolerant pearl millet varieties that will help farmers in India and Africa deal with harsh environmental conditions and open the doors for higher-yielding millet crops.

UCD’s’ role in the partnership will be to identify metabolic and genetic pathways for plant-stress tolerance, and to introduce genes and gene combinations that have been shown to play key roles in conferring to new varieties resistance to drought, heat and salinity.

Arcadia Biosciences and Krishidhan Seeds will make the technology available and support commercialization through private and public partners.

Working with Blumwald on the switchgrass project are John Vogel, Christian Tobias, and Roger Thilmony, all at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Western Regional Research Center in Albany.

— UC Davis News Service

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
    Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

     
    Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

    By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Bauer garden marks one year

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Grande site has been a convoluted saga

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

     
    Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    Already made herself at home

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    How to make a good living

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Nate Beeler cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

    Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Keep our green waste piles

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    This epidemic should scare us

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

    Health problems mean he’s checked out

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

     
    Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

    By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

    .

    Sports

    Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

     
    Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

    Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

     
    California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

    Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

     
    Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

    .

    Obituaries

    Wanda P. Daley

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8