Think Phenome 2017! Environmental/Stress Biology Session

Here’s a sneak preview of what will be presented at the upcoming Phenome 2017 conference, to be held on Feb. 10-14 in Tucson, AZ.

Phenome 2017 will provide a unique opportunity for plant biologists, engineers, computer and information scientists, chemists, mathematicians, geologists, physicists, and meteorologists to mingle, forge collaborations, share insights, and develop strategies to tackle real-world problems.

The Environmental/Stress Biology concurrent sessions will take place on Sunday morning, February 12, at Phenome 2017.

Climate change affects the temperature, salinity, acidity, and moisture levels of soil – factors that have a striking impact on crop yield and quality. Furthermore, flash floods and other extreme weather events resulting from rising global temperatures churn up the soil, releasing toxic deposits of lead, cadmium, and arsenic into water supplies and farmlands. Some of these toxins are absorbed by plants, accumulate in the edible parts, and pose serious health hazards to the animals and humans that consume them. Thus, there’s an urgent need to develop technologies that increase the yield and quality of crops and addresses other knock-on effects of climate change.

Phenome 2017 has a fantastic line-up of speakers in the Environmental/Stress Biology session who are working to address these very needs.

Julia Bailey-Serres from UC Riverside’s Center for Plant Cell Biology aims to elucidate how plants sense and respond to cellular oxygen deprivation, a condition typical of flooded soil. Julia’s team is using new technologies to evaluate chromatin dynamics, transcription, and translation at cell-specific levels, to advance the understanding of the molecular and physiological processes that allow plants to withstand abiotic stresses such as flooding and drought.

Eduardo Blumwald from UC Davis uses a system biology approach to identify genes that enable plants to adapt to environmental stress conditions, particularly those that impart a reduced yield penalty and improved grain quality under drought and salinity stress. His main focus is on genes that influence the partitioning of assimilates and nutrients between source and sink tissues in cereals such as rice, millet, and wheat. Work conducted in Jonathan Lynch’s lab at Penn State also aims to improve crop performance under drought and low soil fertility conditions. His team has identified novel root phenes that have been used to develop varieties of soybean and bean with improved stress tolerance.

Leon Kochian from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada seeks to elucidate the genes and associated physiological mechanisms that confer tolerance to acid soil, which represents around half of the world’s potentially arable land. His research focuses on aluminum toxicity, a major stress associated with acid soils. Leon’s team has cloned an assortment of genes that impart tolerance to aluminum in maize, rice, and sorghum, and is collaborating with plant breeders in Brazil and Africa to use this knowledge to improve maize and sorghum yields.

Also in this session, Oliver Fiehn from UC Davis and long-time Director of the NIH West Coast Metabolomics Center, will be presenting data on the plasticity of plant metabolomes under different stress conditions and discussing how today’s mass spectrometry tools and database queries can link phenotypic effects to metabolite compositions. He will showcase these tools by a metabolomic study on viability of seed germination and respiration phenotype data. He believes that “plant sciences are ahead of other biological disciplines in integrating data and mechanisms that combine molecular descriptors with phenotypic outcomes.” Furthermore, he feels that “Phenome 2017 will be an excellent opportunity to showcase examples for such combinations!”.

We hope to see you there!

Submit an abstract to be considered for a talk and register by December 1st to take advantage of early bird pricing.


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