UGA institute focuses on plant varieties

A new University of Georgia institute focuses on the science of creating new and improved plant varieties that are higher yielding, disease resistant, nutritious, or simply of greater ornamental value.

The newly established UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics was created to harness the efforts of experts and push forward the improvement of plants. Researchers working at the institute develop improved crop cultivars using both traditional and modern genetic technologies, said Charles Brummer, director of the institute.

“We are pulling research together from across the state under a single umbrella so we can create better products,” he said.

According to Brummer, agronomic and horticultural crops must constantly be improved to adjust to climate change, ensure grower profits, create crop diversity and meet consumer demands for aesthetically-pleasing plant materials.

The new UGA institute aims to serve as a world leader in the introduction of new cultivars from a range of species through the integration of related disciplines. The majority of the institute’s researchers are UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty members.

Institute scientists also work with industry plant breeders and other scientists involved in plant improvement, Brummer said.

“We have more plant breeders on the faculty than any other state university,” he said. “And (we have) a huge diversity of experts focusing on cotton, soybeans, pecans, forages, ornamentals, peanut, turfgrass, blueberries, sunflowers and other crops.”

Beginning with the release of coastal bermudagrass in the 1950s, the UGA CAES has established a reputation for breeding successful forage and turfgrass cultivars.

Peanut cultivars recently developed on the Tifton campus have dominated the peanut market in the Southeast.

Roundup Ready soybean cultivars developed by an Institute member enabled the recent doubling of soybean acreage in the lower Southeast.

Royalties from plant cultivars developed at UGA and currently licensed by the UGA Research Foundation can represent up to two thirds of the intellectual property income generated annually by UGA.

In addition to its research component, the institute offers educational opportunities, including UGA graduate degrees in plant breeding, genetics and genomics and undergraduate research opportunities.

“Overall, the institute focuses on applying the science of plant breeding to the development of products that will provide consumers with superior plants for use on farms, athletic fields and home and business landscapes,” Brummer said.

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