Institute's Current Research Projects

Title: "Microbiome and Water Stress in Sunflowers"

Researchers: Jennifer Mandel & Shawn Brown

Abstract: Drought stress in crops affects belowground fungal microbiomes. Our work shows that fungal community structure is driven by watering levels and plant genotypes. Our analyses demonstrate that the abundance of plant pathogens and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increases with crop genetic variation levels. This work provides evidence for drought and genetic drivers of belowground sunflower-fungi interactions and offers a framework for leveraging these interactions to further understand how microbiome community structure can improve plant productivity under stress.

Title: "Predictive Modeling to Enhance Crop Yield"

Researchers: Eddie Jacobs, Mohammadreza Davoodi, Shawn Brown, Jennifer Mandel

Abstract: Heterogeneity in soil moisture and mineral content across a landscape influences plant productivity and soil microbial activity. On an agricultural landscape, these differences may impact the total productivity and yield, especially in systems that employ organic farming, where weeds are a major problem, or regenerative practices, such as cover crops. We aim to maximize the yield of the primary crop while employing cover crops during the winter under these heterogeneous conditions in the field. Our goal is to understand and predict the heterogeneity of agricultural landscapes and its impact on crop yield before ever sowing a seed.

TitleMonitoring Honey Bee Pest and Pathogens Using Environmental DNA

Researchers: Leigh Boardman

Abstract: Healthy honey bees are important for maintaining pollination services. Effective monitoring for emerging pests and diseases is an important aspect of maintaining honey bee health. In collaboration with The University of Florida, we are developing novel diagnostic technologies based on environmental DNA - which is DNA sampled from the environment, not the honey bees themselves. This work will result in diagnostic tools that would improve honey bee health and limit the impacts of invasive organisms on the U.S. honey bee industry.