Agriculture News

April 11, 2016  

Agronomist Ma earns Purdue Agricultural Research Award

Ma soybeans

Much of Jianxin Ma's work focuses on tapping into the genetic diversity of wild soybeans (left) to improve cultivated varieties (right). (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University professor of agronomy Jianxin Ma will receive the 2016 Agricultural Research Award for his work in plant genetics and genomics.

The award is given each year to a faculty member in the College of Agriculture with fewer than 18 years of experience beyond a doctoral degree. Recipients are scientists who have demonstrated a high level of excellence in research and made significant contributions to agriculture, natural resources and quality of life for Indiana citizens.

Much of Ma's research focuses on characterizing the genomics of globally important crops. He is internationally renowned for his seminal work on the soybean genome and his prominent role in decoding the genomic structure of rice, cacao and other plants. Understanding these genomes helps researchers identify and select for desired traits to boost crop yields, improve nutritional value and increase plants' ability to flourish in a changing climate.

"Dr. Ma is a meticulous and innovative researcher whose discoveries have made invaluable contributions to the science of plant genomics," said Karen Plaut, director of agricultural research and associate dean for research and faculty affairs. "He possesses a unique ability to translate a thorough understanding of basic plant biology into crop improvements that are essential to feeding a growing global population."

Ma's work lays a foundation for more sustainable soybean production by using the unique and largely untapped diversity of wild soybeans to improve cultivated varieties. Using a combination of techniques, he has discovered and characterized many genes underpinning key agronomic traits in soybeans that could be used to improve yield, plant architecture, disease resistance, seed oil and calcium content and resilience to climate change. He is working with a team of Purdue scientists to transform this knowledge into the development of new, elite soybean cultivars for farmers.

Indiana is a leading producer of soybeans with the value of the 2015 soybean crop weighing in at more than $3 billion.

"Dr. Ma's work is a terrific illustration of the important role that basic scientific research plays in bringing forward advances that translate into direct benefits for farmers in Indiana and far beyond," said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. "He represents the best of the best in a land-grant faculty member."

Ma will receive the award in an on-campus ceremony in the fall.

The award includes $10,000 to support Ma's research program, a $1,500 honorarium and a commemorative plaque.  

Writer: Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050,

Sources: Karen Plaut, 765-494-8362,

Jay Akridge, 765-494-8391,

Jianxin Ma, 765-496-3662,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
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