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Regents approve plant research excellence center

News Release Distributed 11/06/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – An interdisciplinary and inter-institutional program to develop novel plant traits and new varieties will provide opportunities for scientists to meet future needs in crop production, said Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice chancellor and program leader for plant and soil sciences.

The Center of Research Excellence in Plant Biotechnology and Crop Development, which was recently approved by the Louisiana Board of Regents, is expected to include researchers from various departments in the LSU AgCenter, LSU A&M and other state universities, he said.

The center can be initiated with existing funding because the scientists and facilities are already in place, Leonard said. “In fact, it will increase efficiencies and decrease direct costs through shared resources and people. And we expect to be better able to compete for grant funds from federal agencies and other sources.”

The new organization is a “virtual center without walls,” said Mike Stout, L.D. Newsom Professor in Integrated Pest Management in the AgCenter Department of Entomology and one of the organizers.

“Our aim is to foster cooperation and collaboration among researchers who have areas of mutual interest and complementary skills and to encourage and help them find each other,” Stout said. “We’ll include many departments in the AgCenter and LSU along with other state institutions, such as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.”

Many of the scientists already receive external funding to support their work from federal agencies, national and state commodity organizations and industry sources. “With the Board of Regents approval, we now have a mechanism through which to formalize working arrangements and research teams,” Stout said.

The center will bring together scientists with interests related to biotechnology and crop development to form complementary teams to develop agricultural plants that will increase crop yields and increase crop tolerance to stresses as well as develop plants that can adapt to changing environments, he said.

“Biotechnology doesn’t necessarily mean GMO,” Stout said. These technologies can be used in many ways to improve crops and speed up the process of plant development.

One example is the AgCenter’s development of herbicide-resistant rice that was developed without introducing foreign genes, said AgCenter Vice Chancellor John Russin.

“Coordinating and stimulating scientific efforts among faculty members will expedite this process of development in other crop species,” Russin said. The center will serve as a base for speeding the development and avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts.

"The focus is Louisiana, but the results will have global significance as we concentrate on food security and production,” Stout said. “Emphasis will include improving the yields and nutritional composition of crops that are critical to feeding an expanding world population.”

Current agricultural production systems and the growing environment strongly position Louisiana for research and development of novel plant traits and unique germplasm that add significant value to crop production systems, Leonard said.

The center will also include education and outreach components. “It will allow us to develop interdisciplinary graduate programs and expand undergraduate opportunities,” Stout said.

Rick Bogren
Last Updated: 11/6/2014 9:54:27 AM

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