Writer: Stacey Fehlis, (409) 862-1556
Contact: Dr. Hongbin Zhang, (409) 862-4787
Dr. Rod Wing, (409) 862-2244
COLLEGE STATION — The Rockefeller Foundation will provide $120,000 to Texas A&M University for research on the construction and characterization of rice large insert DNA libraries and their uses in cloning genes.
Dr. Hongbin Zhang, assistant research scientist, and Dr. Rod Wing, assistant professor, both in the soil and crop sciences department, will lead the project.
The primary goal is to establish an efficient means to isolate agriculturally important genes for the improvement of rice and other major grass crops such as corn and wheat.
The most important genes being sought include those that control bacterial, fungal and insect resistances, heading date, fertility, plant type and major yield components — all of which directly contribute to improved rice production, Zhang said.
As part of an international effort, Wing and Zhang first plan to generate a physical location map, which is necessary for cloning the desired genes. The team then will try to isolate the genes based on their positions on the maps.
Wing said the project will use a process that was first used successfully in humans to identify and clone such disorders as cystic fibrosis.
The team noted that this project is of great significance for agriculture worldwide.
“Rice is one of the leading food crops and the staple food for over half of the population of the world,” Zhang said.
Wing said the project has a lot of potential long-term benefits for biological studies and enhanced crop production not only for rice but also for other cereal crops.
“Any gene that we clone could allow us to dramatically increase crop yields,” Wing said. “But most importantly, this research will help us learn more about the biology of plants, such as how plants resist disease.”
Wing added that one of the short-term effects of the project is that plant scientists will be able to select genes for breeding and cloning particular traits more efficiently.
The grant will continue through February 1998.