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$1 million USDA-DOE grant fuels shrub willow rust-resistance research

Fred Gauker, Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Field of Plant Breeding, performs DNA extractions while project PI Larry Smart looks on.

Fred Gouker, Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Field of Plant Breeding, performs DNA extractions while project PI Larry Smart looks on.

A Cornell research project applying cutting-edge genetic and genomic approaches to rust resistance in shrub willows has received a $1 million grant from the Plant Feedstocks Genomics for Bioenergy program, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

The project, “Genomics-Assisted Breeding for Leaf Rust (Melampsora) Resistance in Shrub Willow (Salix) Bioenergy Crops,” is one of five funded by the program in 2015. The awards were announced on National Bioenergy Day October 21.

Shrub willow (Salix spp.) is emerging as a superior bioenergy crop. But advanced regional breeding programs began only in the last 20 years. Increased yield is the primary breeding goal, but a major trait needed to produce consistently higher yields is stable disease resistance, say plant breeder Larry Smart and plant pathologist Christine Smart, the Cornell investigators heading up the project.

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