The National Science Foundation has made 32 new awards totaling $101.6 million. The awards go to projects looking to improve our understanding of genetics. Seven of the grants totaling approximately $27.8 dollars went to projects with a focus on corn. A project looking at the relationship of genotype and phenotype in corn received significant support with a nearly $10 million award. The other projects funded include studies looking at next-generation sequencing technologies for corn, improvement and annotation of the current maize genome sequence and the use of proteogenomics to discover and validate genes.
The Foundation's Plant Genome Research Program, now in its twelfth year, is strongly supported by the National Corn Growers Association. NCGA Research and Business Development Action Team Chair Larry Hasheider of Okawville, Illinois says this type of genome technology is needed to improve yields, make plants more resistant to disease and decrease the chemicals used.
While corn received a larger share of the award than any other single crop, many groups and projects will benefit. Other crops receiving funding included tomatoes, the Compositae family (sunflower, safflower and lettuce), papaya, rice, soy, cotton, switchgrass and tree species. In addition, this year the National Science Foundation awarded approximately $3.5 million in Heterosis Challenge Grants, aimed at identifying the underlying cause of hybrid vigor.