Drought focus of agricultural research

July 18, 2012 at 9:38 PM   |   Comments

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., July 18 (UPI) -- Purdue University researchers say they're working in different areas in hopes future U.S. dry spells won't have the same effect on crops as this year's drought.

The work is focusing on several ways to develop drought-resistant crops and achieve maximum water-use efficiency to combat hot, dry conditions similar to those being experienced in Indiana this growing season, a university release reported Wednesday.

One researcher is studying tropical varieties of corn to understand which genes allow the plants to survive in hot, dry weather, genes that could be integrated into corn that bred to produce high yields in the Midwest.

"There are all these other genes out there in these tropical gene pools," agronomy Professor Mitch Tuinstra said. "We are looking for those genes that enhance the adaptability of temperate maize."

Mike Mickelbart, a professor of horticulture, studies water-use efficiency to get the highest yields in corn using the least amount of water.

"Our ultimate goal would be to provide plant breeders with genetic markers for water-use efficiency so they can incorporate this trait into their breeding programs," Mickelbart said.

The research is being conducted at the Purdue Center for Global Food Security.

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