Dr. Alexander Bucksch receives the NSF Early Career Award:
The phenotypic spectrum: Quantifying new patterns of architecture variation in crop roots
Plant roots are remarkably diverse in size and shape. It is not fully understood how the diversity in root architecture contributes to crop yields or plant biomass in part because roots are buried underground and difficult to study. This research takes a quantitative approach to analyze the wide diversity of root architectures. Bean roots grown under experimental conditions will be imaged and the resulting data will be used to create new mathematical and computational tools to discern causes of root variability. Combined with genomic information, the analytical tools will identify genetic elements underlying root shapes in response to environmental and genetic variation. The research will point to new opportunities for breeding targets in crops such as bean and extended to maize. The research also couples with an education program that integrates computation with plant research, thus addressing the critical national need for a computationally trained plant science workforce. The novel tools will be publicly available and deployed using national cyberinfrastructure: further the technologies will be integrated into two courses that enable basic science and computational biology within an experiential learning environment. A new student award is implemented through the Plant Center and the Georgia Informatics Institute to highlight advances attained by working at the computational and plant science interface. Together, the integration of science and education sets forth a path for fast dissemination of results into breeding programs.