The long range goal of my esearch program is to define how the component processes of photosynthesis integrate to determine photosynthetic performance under agronomically significant situations. With a small vigorous group of research associates and graduate students my lab will focus on the following specific goals over the next 5 years:
- Over the past two decades, my research interests have focused on the effect that specific environmental factors and abiotic stresses have on the photosynthetic performance of crop plants. Currently my research team of post-doctoral associates and predoctoral graduate students are investigating the molecular and biochemical bases of the chilling sensitivity of warm climate crops and the interactions of crop plant photosynthesis with the rapid changes that are occurring in the atmosphere.
Cool temperatures and warm climate crops. Many important agronomic species grown in temperate climates have been imported from warmer tropical and subtropical habitats (e.g., corn, soybean, cotton, tomato). Unlike native temperate climate species, most plants from warm climate evolutionary origins have very little capacity to acclimate to cool much less freezing temperatures. Because the cool temperature sensitivity of these crops plays a central role in determining the growing range as well as annual variations in their economic success, there is intense interest in discovering the mechanistic bases for low temperature sensitivity. It is hoped that by defining the primary chilling-induced lesions that cause the metabolic dysfunctions in warm climate plants that it will be possible to devise strategies to minimize the sensitivity. However, the relevant physiological bases of chilling sensitivity depends critically on the seasonal climatic conditions of the target growing region, whether the low temperature episodes occur at night or in the light, as well as on the species of warm climate plant under consideration. These issues are considered in devising a research strategy to understand the underlying mechanisms of chilling sensitivity.
Impacts of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and tropospheric ozone on photosynthesis and productivity of soybean and corn. Corn-Soybean is the largest ecosystem in the US, dominating the Midwest. SoyFACE (http://www.soyface.uiuc.edu/) a unique open-air laboratory that uses fast-feedback control technology to treat large fully replicated areas with future carbon dioxide, ozone, and soil moisture. Multi-user training and research on topics from soil microbes and gene expression to regional economies, C-cycle and atmosphere. We are investigating the effects of atmospheric change on photosynthesis and canopy energy balance, as well as the interaction of increased atmospheric CO2 and drought.
Genomic Ecology of Global Change. How ecosystems will respond to rapid changes in climate represents one of the great scientific challenges of this century. Human activities are altering the composition of our atmosphere (carbon dioxide and ozone), affecting the Earthâ™s climate system (elevated temperature and water deficits) and introducing invasive species, thus altering the capacity of native and agro-ecosystems to provide critical goods and services including food, fiber, fuel, clean air and water. Though the phenomenology of ecosystem responses to elements of global change is receiving considerable attention, it has been predominantly limited to descriptive research at the level of the individual. The U of I has established the only facility worldwide for studying the simultaneous effects of rising carbon dioxide, ozone, and drought on plants under completely open-air conditions. We are therefore in a unique position to establish an internationally unique research program to examine the effects of global atmospheric change on the transcriptome and proteome of agro-ecosystems. The aim of the Genomic Ecology of Global Change theme within the Institute of Genomic Biology is to produce the scientific foundation to use information obtainable at the level of genomes and proteomes of species and communities to predict the effect of environmental changes on the structure and function of ecosystems. Mathematical modeling and bioinformatics provide the conceptual foundation and data analysis tools for making sound scientific inference. To achieve this aim we have assembled an interdisciplinary team of eight faculty spanning molecular to ecological research, within an overarching link of mathematical modeling and informatics.
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