Post by Allison - jet-lagged but totally inspired.
I just returned from a workshop entitled "Perennial crops for food security" hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. The workshop brought together about 30 scientists and economists from Australia, China, Europe, and the US to exchange ideas and data about perennial crops. The meeting consisted of three days of presentations and round-table discussions. Together with my friend and colleague Briana Gross (University of Minnesota, Duluth), we presented a talk entitled "From field to table: perspectives and potential for perennial domestication". Big thanks to the organizers of the workshop at the FAO, as well as the Saint Louis University Center for Sustainability, for making it possible for me to attend this terrific event.
Most agricultural systems are based on annual crops like corn, wheat, and rice, that need to be replanted from seed every year. However, perennial crops, crops that can stay in the ground for multiple years, are receiving increasing attention as a potential means to meet the nutrition needs of a growing population while decreasing environmental impacts. Although perennial crops will never totally replace annual crops, perennial crops will likely play a critical role in sustainable agriculture in the future. Topics at the workshop included challenges associated with making some of our traditional annual crops into perennials (e.g., perennial rice, perennial corn), domesticating perennial plants that had not previously been used in large scale agriculture, and expanding production and enhancing yield of existing perennial crops. Our lab has worked in several perennial crop systems (grape, pecan, horseradish) and will continue to expand into this area in the future.
Guest post by Chrissy McAllister, Miller Lab PhD candidate!
I've been traveling back and forth between St. Louis and Manhattan, Kansas during the past few weeks, attempting to collect pollen from big bluestem, the dominant grass of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. I'm interested in patterns of polyploidy (whole genome duplication) and population genetic structure in big bluestem. Kansas State University's Biology Department manages the Konza Prairie Biological Station just outside Manhattan - it's 9000 acres of amazing native prairie set aside mainly for research. I'm collecting plants from an on-going drought experiment on site.
Right now, I'm attempting to collect pollen from big bluestem using small glassine bags that are placed over the flowers in the evening. Big bluestem sheds pollen right after dawn, so in the morning, I come back to collect the pollen in the bag. After battling severe storms (70mph wind with hail that blew most of my little bags halfway to Oklahoma), I was finally successful!
Check out some gorgeous views of the Konza Prairie (and big bluestem pollen!) in the slideshow below...
Graduate student Steven Callen is back from his eight week NSF EAPSI fellowship in China! His trip focused on conducting a pollination study of kudzu in its native range and collecting leaf samples for population genomic analysis. Along the way, he met some great friends and colleagues, and also secured the world's largest research poster. Steven, please post here soon and fill us in on your trip! Great to have you back at SLU!
Vitis riparia. Photo by Rebecca Hensiek.
I just returned from watching two fabulous presentations by photo interns at the Missouri Botanical Garden, including one by Rebecca Hensiek. Rebecca completed a photo essay of the activities at the research vineyard this summer. She has compiled her photos in a Prezi presentation, which can be viewed here. Just push the play button at the bottom of the photo window - it is really impressive!
Several members of the Miller Lab recently traveled to New Orleans, LA for the 2013 Botany Meetings, a joint meeting of several academic societies including the American Bryological and Lichenological Society, American Fern Society, American Society of Plant Taxonomists, the Botanical Society of America, and the International Association of Plant Taxonomists. The meeting drew more than 1100 botanists who enjoyed four days of research presentations, meetings, and social events. Chrissy gave a talk about her work investigating the environmental correlates of cytotype diversity in big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Laura talked about hybridization in the genus Diphasiastrum, and Allison presented recent genotyping by sequencing dataset demonstrating clonal structure in horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) populations in Eastern Europe. A poster with Steven Callen's kudzu project was displayed by collaborator and SLU grad student Justin Zweck (Steven is still in China doing fieldwork). Matthew Greg, a SLU undergraduate who participated in the NSF REU program at the Missouri Botanical Garden, showed a poster detailing his morphometric analysis of three North American Vitis species. Finally, Allison and Toby Kellogg organized a symposium of special invited talks entitled: "Speaking of food: connecting basic and applied science". In addition to enjoying great science, we were able to squeeze in a trip to Cafe du Monde for beignets and enjoyed other exquisite cuisine of New Orleans. Thank you to Saint Louis University Department of Biology, Principia College, and the Botanical Society of America for helping us participate in this terrific meeting.
Miller Lab members