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Research Projects (In progress, will be updated late SP2023)

 Linking root physiology to environmental associations in Zea mays landraces

Root architecture and anatomy have ramifications for nutrient acquisition. The identification of beneficial variation in root traits under edaphic and climatic stress as breeding targets is an increasingly popular topic, but their below-ground nature can cause complications for their study. If landraces are representative of adaptive differentiation as related to native environment, relationships between landrace root morphology and environ-ment may reflect root trait variation required for fitness to limiting environments. By linking changes in landrace root phenotypes to their local environmental pressures, adaptive root phenotypes and the abiotic factors driving variation can be considered.

Figure Representative Zea mays root cross sections across precipitation gradients.

Strigolactone effects on Sorghum bicolor ecophysiology 

Signatures of local adaptation are evident in broad-scale adaptation to environment, but other selection pressures like adaptation to biotic pressures can also impact fitness and shape evolution. In the case of the host-parasite symbiosis between Sorghum bicolor and Striga hermonthica, certain S. bicolor landraces have increased host resistance to the parasite S. hermonthica through changes in host exuded hormone profiles. It remains unclear what other consequences this host resistance strategy may have on other phenotypes and physiology important for fitness. Here, I investigate trade-offs associated with a host resistance strategy against a parasitic plant.

Predicting crop resilience and adaptation

Changing climate poses a large threat to global agriculture, threatening food security from reductions in crop productivity. One method for increased agricultural resilience may include the identification of existing beneficial genetic and trait variation. Landscape genomic approaches are increasingly popular for considering the adaptive potential of species, predicted range shifts, and identification of putatively adaptive genetic regions. Using locally adapted landraces, I exploit the GxE nature of their fitness for insights to the genetic basis of adaptation in currently stressful environments. Thus, informing what genotypic information may encourage crop fitness in the case of environmental change

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