In the news / Plant

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Despite slowdowns in research suffered by universities around the world due to the pandemic, the University of Arizona has experienced solid growth in the commercialization of university inventions. In the last fiscal year alone UArizona received 274 invention disclosures and launched 17 startups.
 
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BIO5 Public Affairs student assistant Ryan Hunt discusses how his roles within BIO5 have supported his personal and professional goals.
 
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Dr. Laura Meredith discusses soil microbes, her climate-focused research around the globe, and what it's like to be a woman in STEM.
 
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Tech Launch Arizona is funding the development of five winning software projects aiming to make real societal impact.
 
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Part of a multi-university collaboration, UArizona has received a nearly $1 million USDA grant to expand the Agricultural Genome to Phenome Initiative. They aim to increase understanding of how genetic code affects physical and behavioral traits in crops and livestock and standardize the collection of phenomic information.
 
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Bruce Tabashnik, Head of the Department of Entomology and BIO5 member, was the lead researcher for a recent study that showed that the eradication of the pink bollworm, a pest that destroyed cotton crops, was in part to a coordinated effort between researchers, farmers and the cotton industry.
 
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Dr. Gene Giacomelli, UArizona faculty in Biosystems Engineering, Plant Sciences, and the BIO5 Institute, discusses the importance of educational background in farming. His research at Arizona has focused on CEA system design for climate control and for crop production systems within the UA-CEAC for 20 years. In 2001, he organized and implemented the first Greenhouse Engineering and Crop Production Short Course in Arizona, as the premier component of the CEA Extension program which targets growers of all levels of controlled environments, producing in Vertical Farms, grow rooms, and greenhouses.
 
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Dr. Joel Cuello, UArizona Biosystems Engineering professor and BIO5 member, led a cross-disciplinary team to develop the Air Accordion Photobioreactor, the sustainable tech utilized by the startup AlgaeCell, to produce microalgae for use in pharmaceuticals, supplements, and vaccines.
 
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Vertical farming startups claim they can grow hundreds of times more produce -- usually leafy greens -- per unit area than a traditional open-field farm, while cutting water use by 95% or more. And they can maintain production year-round, with no worries about crop-destroying pests and thus no pesticides, while the plants get exactly the water and nutrients they need. Driving all this is a level of automation that separates the farms, also called plant factories, from typical greenhouses. Dr. Joel Cuello, UArizona professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and BIO5 member says vertical farming is not a panacea for addressing the challenge of meeting the world's prodigiously growing food demand, but a vital component of innovations toward more sustainable farming methods.
 
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The third annual BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship, this year awarded to eight outstanding postdoctoral researchers, grants financial support and facilitates guidance to enrich research and career growth.
 
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For much of the past century, the invasive pink bollworm wreaked havoc in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. A multifaceted strategy eradicated the pest from cotton-producing areas of the region according to a new study led by Regents professor, UArizona Entomology department head, and BIO5 member, Dr. Bruce Tabashnik. According to the study, the eradication program saved U.S. cotton growers $192 million from 2014 to 2019. Through environmentally friendly approaches, it also helped to reduce insecticides sprayed against all cotton pests by 82% and prevented the application of over a million pounds of insecticides per year in Arizona.
 
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Dr. Bruce Walsh received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 International Congress in Quantitative Genetics in honor of his foundational textbooks, teaching, and outreach efforts.
 
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A $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation will support University of Arizona graduate students looking to work across scientific disciplines to take on the world's grand challenges, from global climate change to sustainable food production. The grant was awarded to researchers with the UArizona Ecosystem Genomics Initiative, which brings together researchers from a wide range of scientific fields to design new models to inform global climate policy, identify genes and genomic interactions that enhance crop yield, and prepare graduate students to join the national workforce in fields such as ecosystem management, medical genetics and food security.
 
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Dr. Brian Enquist teamed up with Nirav Merchant, CyVerse co-principal investigator and director of UArizona Data Science Institute, to lead an interdisciplinary collaboration of the nation's scientists aiming to harness the power of big data and cyberinfrastructure to predict global biodiversity changes under different climate outcome scenarios. The project was funded this year at $2.5 million under the National Science Foundation's Harnessing the Data Revolution program, with just over $966,000 awarded to UArizona. The grant stemmed from work done by the Bridging Biodiversity and Conservation Science group, a new interdisciplinary initiative at the University of Arizona.
 
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The world’s hottest rainforest is located not in the Amazon or anywhere else you might expect, but inside Biosphere 2, the experimental scientific research facility in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona. A recent study of tropical trees planted there in the early 1990s reported a surprising result: They have withstood temperatures higher than any likely to be experienced by tropical forests this century.
 
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Drs. Laura Meredith and Jana U’Ren pivoted their scheduled field work trip to Alaska to infer the impact of terrestrial carbon loss on climate change.
 
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Dr. Eliot Herman, a professor of plant sciences, has dedicated his career studying why plants, such as the soybean plant, trigger allergic reactions and how to reduce the likelihood of them being triggered. By crossing a non-allergenic strain of soybeans with more commonly grown soybeans, Herman and his team were able to create a new, productive plant with reduced allergic sensitivity.
 
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Tropical forests may be more resilient to predicted temperature increases under global climate change than previously thought, a study published in the journal Nature Plants suggests. The group led by Dr. Scott Saleska, UArizona professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studied data from the rainforest habitat at UArizona's Biosphere 2 and compared them to measurements taken at natural tropical forest sites. The results could help make climate prediction models more accurate.