Plant Sciences

With both the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture in the Top 10 nationally, no other university has Purdue's expertise and resources to address the world's food needs with the planet's population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050. To feed everyone, we must grow plants that deliver higher yield, are more nutritious, use water and nutrients more efficiently, and tolerate more environmental variations than today's agricultural crops.

Goals

  • Lead the world in understanding plant biology, translating those discoveries to commercially important crops, using automation to assess the performance of these crops under field conditions, and moving these improved plants or plant products through a pipeline for commercialization.
  • Expand research and education in plant biology by establishing a Center for Molecular Agriculture with 10 faculty positions. The center will conduct research into the customization of plants that will meet emerging needs locally and globally.
  • Develop a plant transformation facility that bridges the gap between the identification of valuable plant genes and their commercialization.
  • Develop an automated field phenotyping laboratory. This lab will position Purdue to be a leader in this new field.
  • Create a plant commercialization incubator facility that will enhance the value of Purdue intellectual property and make Purdue the preferred partner of industry.
  • Develop student leaders in the plant sciences.

Accomplishments

  • Purdue has invested more than $20 million in the College of Agriculture for plant sciences research and education to strengthen the University's leadership in developing novel ways to help feed a rapidly growing world population.
  • Purdue is hiring the researchers and developing the facilities needed for the University to strengthen its leadership in critical plant sciences research areas. Here are a few examples:
    • Center for Molecular Agriculture: This center, interdepartmental by design, gives researchers access to cutting-edge DNA sequencing and genome-editing technology that allows them to gather large data sets; integrate data into predictive models; and test those models through the production of specific, directed changes in the plant genome. The center also created 10 new faculty positions in the plant sciences, which are in the process of being filled.
    • Automated Field Phenotyping and Seed Processing Laboratory: This cutting-edge facility, under construction at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE), will help establish global leadership in the area of automated field phenotyping. The 25,000-square-foot facility, set to open spring 2016, will use automated systems to collect billions of field measurements that will quantify differences in plant characteristics such as canopy area, leaf area, height and pyotosynthetic ability. The data will be used to create new crop varieties that can better withstand excessive rain, drought or other environmental conditions; have improved nutritional attributes; and produce greater yield, among other important characteristics.
    • Beck’s Molecular Genetics Teaching Lab in Lilly Hall: Opened fall 2015, this student-centered, state-of-the-art learning facility accommodates twice the number of students in genetics laboratory courses each semester.
    • Ten new faculty positions in basic plant biology are being filled, and five new field science faculty have already been hired.
    • Under the broader umbrella of molecular agriculture at Purdue, faculty are using genome-editing technology to understand how plants grow. Other faculty from the colleges of Agriculture and Engineering and from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute are using sensors to gather information about how plants grow in the field. Massive data sets are being developed to integrate data into predictive models so that researchers can select the most promising plants for further research.
    • In October 2015, the Office of Research and Partnerships and the Office of the Provost launched the Pillars of Excellence in Life Sciences Initiative, aimed at enhancing Purdue’s life sciences research and graduate education. These selected pillars will coalesce faculty interdisciplinary expertise around the life sciences, contributing to the plant sciences and drug discovery initiatives of Purdue Moves.

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