Following the fire at Maclewane, the Miller Lab has been in transition mode. We spent the first several weeks following the fire working primarily out of the library and herbarium of the Missouri Botanical Garden. We are feeling especially grateful to the garden for the emergency support provided this summer and will continue to work there on a number of ongoing, collaborative projects. We are also grateful for our friends and colleagues at the Danforth for opening their doors to us, and to Saint Louis University for helping to set up this terrific arrangement. The Danforth is an impressive institution in St. Louis, whose broad research goals focus on sustaining the planet through crop development, improvement, and environmental efficiency - or, as they say, “improving the human condition through plant science.” Their mission aligns with much of what our lab strives for in our own research, from assessing perennial characteristics in legumes to analyzing phenotypic adaptations in grape scions and beyond. We are thrilled to call the Danforth home for the next year, and to be a part of this collaborative and innovative research environment. Plus - coffee and lemonade breaks everyday at 3? I think we’ll survive. Allison and lab members Laura and Emma have made their move out to the temporary office and lab space, and they will be joined shortly by PhD students Sterling, Joel, and Zach, with regular visits from post-doc Claudia (who is primarily based at the Missouri Botanical Garden). Saint Louis University undergraduate students Niyati Bhakta and Olivia Weigl have also been working at the Danforth this summer. Check out photos of the beautiful space below. Blog post contributed by Emma Frawley.
The Miller Lab Group and affiliates attended the meetings of the Botanical Society of America and other related societies at Botany 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas this week. Laura, Sterling, Joel, and Alex gave presentation s (click here for a list of our presentations). Incoming lab research assistant Emma Frawley presented a poster and Allison gave a lightning talk. Lab collaborator and friend Dan Chitwood gave the annual Kaplan lecture - for me this was a highlight of the week! In between presentations we caught up with friends, developed new collaborations, Allison attend a ton of meetings related to the BSA Board, and we made time for socializing too. Thanks to the organizers for a terrific meeting and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone in Rochester in 2018!
On Thursday May 25, 2017 there was a fire at Macelwane Hall, our home at Saint Louis University (SL Post Dispatch coverage). We are very grateful that no one was hurt. The building sustained significant fire, smoke, and water damage. All offices and labs occupied by our group were impacted. Thanks to the St. Louis Fire Department, Saint Louis University leadership, and our friends and colleagues for support and kind words during this difficult time.
Guest post by Claudia Ciotir. The conference entitled CROP DIVERSIFICATION IN A CHANGING WORLD Mobilizing the green gold of plant genetic resources Montpellier, France, 08-11 May 2017, was organized by the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding (EUCARPIA) Genetic Resources section, in association with the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR). Around 230 conference delegates were hosted at the conference center (Le Corum). The conference started with welcoming addresses from Shelagh Kell, Chair of EUCARPIA Genetic Resources section, Andreas Börner, President Designate, EUCARPIA, Lorenzo Maggioni, Secretary, ECPGR, Carole Delga, and Bernard Hubert, President, Agropolis International, France. The Conference had four plenary sessions: 1) Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) conservation – in nature, in production systems and in genebanks, 2) Breeding for diverse farming systems – the roles of the formal and informal sectors, 3) Collaborative approaches in plant breeding – public–private partnerships and participatory practices, and 4) Marketing diversity – enhancing the enabling environment for crop diversification. In addition, participants split in four workshop sessions where they discussed arduous problems addressing the functionality of the Plant Genetic Resources use system:1) Valuing plant genetic diversity – what are the costs and benefits of PGR conservation and use?, 2) The in situ–ex situ conundrum – can we move to a truly integrated approach?, 3) Searching for diversity – how can information flow be streamlined to improve access to PGR?, and 4) Accessing plant genetic diversity – what are the obstacles and how can they be overcome?
Ongoing strategies in plant genetic resource conservation to reconcile the biological, political and social dimensions of genetic resources and use were at the heart of the meeting. One of the major goals of the conference was to strengthen relationships between the public research institutes, governmental bodies, private plant breeding companies and independent plant breeders, the commercial seed and plant production industries and public genebanks with
farmers and seed producers, farmers’ associations, seed networks, NGOs, civil society organizations, and International organizations or specific initiatives relevant to PGR use.
A set of implementations were proposed by the four workshop groups and a draft of conference resolution on future needs to support a workable and sustainable PGR system was discussed at the end of the panel discussion plenary.
Our group participated in this conference with few goals in mind: to present the audience the progress on our work at The Land Institute and the Perennial Agriculture Project Global Inventory (PAPGI); 2) to network with international scientists working on plant genetic resources and crop wild relatives conservation, pre-breeding, and domestication; 3) and to explore potential collaborations and funding resources.
I had a great time checking out some beautiful spring wildflowers on the Tennessee cedar glades this month during a visit to Middle Tennessee State University. Thanks to Ashley Morris and MTSU for a wonderful visit!
We are super excited about a new outreach effort in partnership with the St. Louis Science Center (SLSC) and The Land Institute (Salina, KS). SLSC has an awesome agriculture exhibit - GROW - which opened in June 2016. We are germinating seeds of perennial crop candidates kernza, Silphium integrifolium, and an alfalfa hybrid, for installation in the GROW exhibit. These species have been identified by The Land Institute as promising species for perennial crop development because of their seed attributes and deep root systems. The plants in the GROW exhibit will serve as a launching point for conversations about the role of plant biodiversity in the future of agriculture, natural systems agriculture based on the development of an agricultural system that mimics natural ecosystems (like the North American prairie), and how perennial plants, with their longer lifespan and extensive root systems, can contribute to soil conservation and sustainable agriculture. This outreach effort is part of a larger collaborative project between Saint Louis University, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and The Land Institute which is focused on building a botanical foundation for perennial polyculture agriculture. Thank you to Claudia Ciotir, Sterling Herron, Maddie Earnest, Hannah Reinhart, Lee DeHaan, Brandon Schlautman, and David Van Tassel for assistance with this work.
As part of our NSF funded project on grafted grapevines we have partnered with Forrest Keeling Nursery to construct an experimental grafted population. The vines have been grafted and are now beginning the process of growing together.
A big thanks to Peter Cousins, Principal Scientist for Viticulture at the E. & J. Gallo Winery for visiting Saint Louis University this week! Peter is a world expert on the grapevine genus Vitis. He worked for the US Department of Agriculture for 12 years before joining Gallo as a plant breeder. Peter is a senior collaborator on our NSF funded grapevine project, and is helping us to set up training opportunities in the grape and wine industry for project participants. In addition, Peter is recruiting students for Gallo's internship program. Peter gave a great presentation about internship opportunities at the Gallo Winery to about 25 SLU students.
More information about internships at Gallo is available here.
The Land Institute held its annual Prairie Festival September 23 - 25, 2016 in Salina, Kansas. It was a wonderful celebration of the founding and incredible growth of The Land Institute. Speakers chronicled the development of a strong community of people that have united around a central idea presented in Wes Jackson's 1980 book New Roots for Agriculture and subsequent papers - that agricultural systems should mimic natural ecosystems that consist largely of perennial plants growing in polyculture which have evolved over millennia as resilient, sustainable systems. Presenters included former and present Land Institute board members, Land Institute scientists, and scholars from across the country. Four members of our group attended the Prairie Festival this year: Allison, Claudia (SLU postdoc), Sterling (SLU MS student), and Samantha (SLU undergrad).
The event was covered by the Salina Journal here.
The schedule is available here.
Saturday presentations are available here (including Allison's update on the inventory project).
Sunday presentations (including Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, and Fred Iutzi) are available here.
20th Eucarpia General Congress "Plant Breeding: The Art of Bringing Science to Life" Zurich Switzerland, August 2016
The 20th Eucarpia General Congress, entitled “Plant Breeding: The Art of Bringing Science to Life”, drew 432 members to the ETH Zurich in Switzerland. The Congress started with inspiring introduction emphasizing several themes: 1) feeding a growing population in a changing climate in a sustainable way is a significant global challenge; 2) vital relationship between basic and applied plant science, 3) reconciling agriculture with the environment, including organic agriculture and the use of cover crops; 4) that plant genetic resources are the raw materials for plant breeding and must be conserved and made accessible to breeders; 5) that there are a range of approaches breeders are using to develop new crops including conventional breeding, mutation-based breeding, and genetic modification; 6) that there is a need to train the next generation of breeders; and 7) that federal and global regulations are impacting activities of plant breeding including those dealing with food safety, plant variety patents/intellectual property, technologies used in plant breeding, labeling products, and discovery of, access to and transfer of wild materials for breeding. From this introduction it was clear that all attendees had a singular focus: to harness natural plant biodiversity and cutting edge research tools to develop high-quality, affordable, safe plants that can be grown as sustainably as possible. It was also clear that there is extensive consideration and experimentation taking place on how best to do this. Postdoc Claudia Ciotir and I attended the Eucarpia meeting with three specific goals in mind 1) to get the word out about the work of The Land Institute and the Perennial Agriculture Project Global Inventory (PAPGI) through presentations; 2) to meet European plant breeders and germplasm conservation scientists; and 3) to learn more about global plant genomic resources and their accessibility. It was a great meeting!
Miller Lab members